posted on October 24, 2012 14:51
Missouri begins its five-game finale on Saturday against Kentucky, looking for at least three wins to become bowl-eligible for the eighth-consecutive year. We're taking a look ahead at some key questions that need to be answered in the next five games that will have an impact on that goal -- and perhaps even further down the road.
Today, we finish with the three biggest questions on defense.
1. What's the future at cornerback? Missouri's pass defense hasn't been tested nearly as much as it was in the Big 12, but questions still remain. Namely, which cornerbacks will be in the future rotation? Kip Edwards is gone after this year. EJ Gaines and Randy Ponder are seniors next year. Those three have seen the bulk of snaps at cornerback, and there hasn't been much playing time for some of the younger players. Is that because that trio is pretty good, or because there are depth concerns beyond them? David Johnson, Ernest Payton and Xavier Smith are younger players that may get more looks for next year as the season nears its end.
2. Is Kony Ealy the next star? Very quietly, Ealy is putting together a good season. He has 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his redshirt sophomore year. This isn't an Aldon Smith-type breakout season, but Ealy is also in a pretty stout rotation with Michael Sam and Brad Madison. The end to the season could set the tone for Ealy's junior year, which will likely include the overwhelming majority of snaps at one defensive end position.
3. Can Sheldon Richardson get all-SEC honors? Other defensive takles may have better numbers than Richardson, but Missouri's star defensive tackle is without a doubt one of the most disruptive forces in the conference. He'll get a chance to go against three offensive lines that have struggled mightily when Missouri plays Kentucky, Tennessee and Syracuse. He's the conference's leading tackler at defensive tackle with 52 stops. In fact, the only other two defensive linemen in the top 50 are both ends -- Texas A&M's Demontre Moore and South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. Currently, Richardson has four sacks and seven and a half tackles for loss. Those both rank in the top ten in the conference. If Richardson can keep his tackles at the top of that group, and add three more sacks and at least five more tackles for loss, he may have done just enough to be first-team SEC when the season is over.