Season report card: Missouri

We're offering up grades for each team in the Big 12 after their seasons conclude, so here's a look at how the 8-5 Missouri Tigers graded out in 2011.

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OFFENSE: This season was supposed to be all about James Franklin. Could the sophomore -- used almost exclusively as a runner as a freshman in 2010 -- prove his worth as a passer and become the next in a long line of great Missouri quarterbacks?

That answer proved to be yes. Franklin is no Brad Smith: He is a better passer, though he lacks Smith's speed. He is no Blaine Gabbert: He's a better runner, but he lacks Gabbert's accuracy.

Above all, though, Franklin was productive. Missouri's offense flourished for most of the season. It's easy to get frustrated when you see the Tigers were only able to muster a fifth-place finish in total offense in the conference, but consider that is good for No. 12 nationally.

We haven't even talked about Henry Josey yet. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew saw their production take a huge dip this season; a predictable result with Franklin carrying the ball 217 times for 981 yards. He threw for 2,872 yards and 21 touchdowns, too, but Josey was the offense's most valuable player this season. De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence went down with injuries, and Missouri found out the Big 12's best running back was third on their depth chart. He led the league by averaging more than eight yards a carry, and despite suffering a catastrophic knee injury against Texas, he led the Big 12 in rushing for three full weeks after the injury.

The Tigers got it done offensively, but unfortunately for them, offenses are graded on a curve in the Big 12. Other teams in the league set the curve very, very high.


DEFENSE: The defensive line was the team's most hyped unit, and even though it didn't perform to the level many expected, the rest of the unit overachieved. A secondary that replaced both corners still ranked fifth in pass defense. Texas and Kansas State were the only Big 12 teams better at defending the big play, and the Tigers were among the league's most physical teams.

They did all of this without a single player approaching the top tier of defensive talent in the Big 12 and put just one player on the first-team All-Big 12 defense (DT Dominique Hamilton). The team's top producer in 2010, DE Brad Madison, played with a painful injury to his inside shoulder all season that limited his effectiveness. But the Tigers' unit was certainly solid enough to help support a prolific offense.


OVERALL: Eight wins is the same result that Daniel and Gabbert endured in their first years as starter. Ultimately, the mark was about where Missouri belonged with the type of season it had. The Tigers missed a game-winning field goal against what ended up being a six-win Arizona State team, and lost a heartbreaker at Baylor, too. It also erased deficits to beat Texas A&M at home and forced a late turnover to beat Texas Tech in the final minute. All four of those games could have gone either way. Missouri split them.

The Tigers are headed to the SEC East next year, where at least in the immediate future, it looks like a division contender. This year wasn't a dream season, but it could set up something special. The Tigers rallied from a 3-4 start to win five of their final six games and salvage a good season. There wasn't a truly impressive win in the bunch, but all five losses came to teams ranked at the time.