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SEC Spring Practice Primer: Missouri

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Drew Lock enters spring practice as Missouri's unquestioned starter under center.

2015 Record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC)

Offensive Returning Starters: 5 (QB Drew Lock, WR J’Mon Moore, WR Nate Brown, TE Sean Culkin, OG Nate Crawford)

Defensive Returning Starters: 8 (DE Charles Harris, DE Walter Brady, DT Josh Augusta, DT Rickey Hatley, LB Michael Scherer, LB Donavin Newsom, CB Aairon Penton, S Anthony Sherrils)

Practice Opens: Mar. 8

Spring Game: Apr. 16

Storylines

1. Lock and Load

The Barry Odom era at Missouri commences with a returning starting quarterback in sophomore Drew Lock, who took over for the suspended Maty Mauk in October and led the Tigers to a 2-6 record over the final eight games. He’ll have his second coordinator in as many seasons in former Oklahoma quarterback and coordinator Josh Heupel. The 2000 Heisman Trophy runner-up spent last season at Utah State after a parting of ways with his alma mater following a disappointing 2014 season.

If you watched Heupel’s Oklahoma teams in the first half of this decade, you know tempo is going to be a big part of what Lock is asked to do. The Tigers were by no means a prodding team under Pinkel, but there will be some different nuances to the new regime. The biggest benefit for Lock will be that he will have more of an SEC body than he did as a true freshman, when a pounding that he didn’t expect to endure prior to Mauk’s suspension took its toll by season’s end.

2. Oh, Brothers

Because he played on a bad team, linebacker Kentrell Brothers didn’t get nearly the credit he deserved for a ridiculously productive senior season. Brothers had 26 more tackles than any other player in all of college football. He’ll be the next Missouri defender to make a name for himself in the NFL after former teammates Kony Ealy and Shane Ray made immediate impacts on Sunday.

But for the 2016 Tigers, there is a massive hole to fill in the middle of the defense. Do they bring Michael Scherer in from the weak side? Or do they keep Scherer in his 2015 starting role to avoid having new starters at two of the three linebacker positions? Head coach Barry Odom and defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross will work through that over the next five weeks, but regardless of outcome this unit can’t help but take a step back this season after losing a player the caliber of Brothers.

3. Lose Your “Kul”

With Missouri going the internal hire route to replace Gary Pinkel, it seemed logical that defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, one of the most productive position coaches in the nation over the past few years, would remain on staff. That didn’t materialize, and “Coach Kul” is now a part of Mark Richt’s staff at Miami (FL). From Ealy and Michael Sam in 2013, to Ray and Markus Golden in 2014, to Charles Harris last year, Kuligowski was a defensive end wizard.

Like he did with Heupel, Odom turned to a longtime Bob Stoops assistant to fill the void with the hiring of Jackie Shipp. He steps into a great situation with Harris and former five-star recruit Terry Beckner, Jr. The talent is there for this unit to maintain its extremely high level of excellence, but we could learn just how valuable Kuligowski was if this unit takes a step back.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.