Well, since I was the only one of the crew who could make it to the game last Saturday (read: the only one loyal enough to go… just kidding, guys), here are a few quick thoughts about the Tigers’ home opener.
1) Our receivers are a lot better than I thought. I always knew Will Franklin had crazy athleticism, and I always knew T. Rucker and Chase Coffman were huge, fast targets with good hands . . . but I didn’t realize how good these guys were (OK, maybe I knew how good Coffman was) until Saturday. It’s amazing what a receiver can do after the catch when the ball hits him in the hands . . . and it’s amazing how dangerous Franklin can be downfield when the quarterback actually can throw the deep ball.
2) On a related note, the passing game looks pretty good when the QB is actually accurate. Watching Chase Daniel run once is enough to make you realize we aren’t going to have any “third and Chase” plays. But watching him throw bullets on the money all over the field is pretty nice.
3) On another related note, it’s going to be hard to stop “out” patterns to MU’s tight ends – Daniel has the zip to make the throw, and Coffman and Rucker are so dangerous in the middle, so quick and so big, that play should be almost unstoppable.
4) We had a flashback to the Brad Smith days when Brandon Coleman came in to mop up (after Daniel set the school record for passing TDs). Coleman had a long run on a QB keeper . . . and an interception on an out pattern that was thrown 3 feet behind the receiver. (Side note: I’m a huge Brad Smith fan, obviously, but his failings in the passing game prevented the Tigers from ever reaching their potential, no matter how many school records he set).
5) The defense overwhelmed the smaller and slower Racers, but there still were things you could take away from the game. Namely: this defense swarms to the ball like no Tiger team in recent memory. The secondary is big and fast, and phenom linebacker Brock Christopher looked good.
6) Stryker Sulak is more than just a cool name. He just might be Missouri’s best defensive player – which is a good sign, considering he’s competing with a preseason All-Big 12 safety (David Overstreet, who didn’t see much action because the front seven did its job), a preseason All-Big 12 tackle (Lorenzo Williams) and the guy who probably is the Big 12’s future all-time sack leader (Brian Smith). Sulak showed the same burst and energy off the edge that made him a starter as a freshman last year, and he also showed good discipline.
7) MU’s defensive line is going to be it’s bread and butter. Three good ends, three good tackles. The secondary looks like it has the athleticism to take advantage of the mistakes the front four should force, but the Tigers need to stop dropping easy interceptions (I remember at least two that were dropped).
8) Dedrick Harrington continues to disappoint me. Remember when Deke was a freshman and looked like he was going to be a big, big star? Yeah, me too. He failed to make an impact again on Saturday. Maybe it’s the way they use him, maybe it’s inattention on my part, but I don’t remember Harrington making one play on Saturday.
9) Tony Temple reminded me why he was the No. 2 running back in his class. Remember who was No. 1? Just some guy named Adrian Petersen. It was against an inferior opponent, obviously, but TT showed the quick start-and-stop ability that made him so highly regarded out of high school. And he didn’t fumble, which always is his biggest question mark. Looks like he didn’t lose any quickness or agility when he bulked up.
10) There’s no reason this team shouldn’t start the season 5-0 and win 9 games. The schedule is soft . . . Ole Miss this week is the biggest obstacle, in my opinion.