Now that spring practice has officially started in the SEC, we figured we would take a page out of the Big Ten blog's book and look at the state of each SEC program, using recent performance, win-loss trends, coaching and current and future personnel as indicators.
We'll kick things off with a weeklong look at the SEC East Division -- including Missouri today -- before checking out the West next week.
Up next: Missouri Tigers
2015 record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)
Three-year record: 28-12
Coaching situation: For the first time in 15 years, the Tigers have a new head coach. Barry Odom, 39, took over the program following Gary Pinkel’s retirement in 2015. Odom, thought to be a rising star in the industry, gives the Tigers some measure of stability. That is a good thing for Missouri, which experienced consistent success under Pinkel (he is the program’s all-time wins leader). Odom kept a few members of the previous coaching staff around, but since 2016 will be his head coaching debut, we won’t have a true idea of what to expect until the Tigers play some games under him. As a former Mizzou player who also coached in numerous capacities there before becoming the head coach, he certainly understands the culture.
Roster situation: The Tigers return seven offensive starters and eight on defense, so the chance to take a step back in the right direction is there. The quarterback (Drew Lock) will be a sophomore and a receiver corps that had virtually no experience heading into 2015 now brings some to the table. Defensively, the Tigers return their entire defensive line. If Harold Brantley can rejoin the unit (he missed the 2015 season after a serious car accident last summer) that would give the group a significant boost. Overall, it’s a relatively young team.
Recruiting situation: The Tigers have never been a team to rank high in recruiting rankings, so it’s hard to put much stock into where they were in the 2016 cycle (51st). But if the “Mizzou Made” philosophy that thrived under Pinkel continues to pay dividends, the Tigers will continue to have quality depth across the board. It’s worth noting that their ranking is the lowest it has been in at least four years. It’s also worth wondering how much Pinkel’s retirement impacted recruiting and it's also fair to wonder how much the questions posed by Concerned Student 1950 about race issues on campus last fall -- which led to a student hunger strike and a brief football player strike -- affected the Tigers’ recruiting in the final months of the 2016 cycle. Odom said the latter topic came up “in every house,” as he closed out the class. Looking ahead to the 2017 class, the Tigers have only one verbal commitment so far: Three-star athlete DaRon Davis.
Trajectory: Last season was a rude awakening but overall, the program was a consistent winner under Pinkel. They won back-to-back SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014; the two 5-7 seasons they’ve had since joining the SEC were marred by injury (2012) and other circumstances, as Maty Mauk’s suspension played a significant role in the 2015 record, forcing Lock into the starting quarterback role as a true freshman. Since 2007, the Tigers have won double-digit games five times and won fewer than eight games only twice (the aforementioned 2012 and 2015 seasons). Odom’s first season will be telling but despite a rough 2015 season, the overall long-term trajectory of the program is still generally upward.