A year ago, solid defense and special teams played a large role in Missouri’s second consecutive SEC East title. Defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden were a big part of that, but they’re on their way to the National Football League. The “next man up” cliché applies.  It’s hard to tell about some things during those spring football games. However, the defensive line caught my eye—especially the number of solid players at defensive tackle. They do have to find replacements at end for Shane Ray and Markus Golden. I get the feeling that Marcus Loud may be the next big thing at DE in Columbia. Someone else may step up too. Given the track record, the Tigers will be OK or better up front.  Winning football starts with the big guys and that is going to be a strength of the Tigers defense again in ’15.

The offense didn’t make much of a splash in the spring game. I want to think that the defense had a lot to do with that. That unit includes a lot of familiar guys on the field from a unit that had much to do with the Tigers success in ’14. It’s also pretty hard to surprise someone when you line up against every day in practice.  I also liked seeing a lot of familiar names on the offensive line depth chart. Quarterback Maty Mauk will benefit from that and Missouri generally ran the ball effectively a year ago. Missouri ran the ball well last year and it is reasonable to assume based on the number of returnees that they’ll run the ball well again in 2015.

Special teams are the big unknown right now. The Tigers were solid in that phase of the game a year ago and that really helped around mid-season when the offense was scuffling.  We won’t have a good handle on that until mid to late September.

The 2015 schedule appears to be another favorable one. Admittedly, the non-conference schedule isn’t much to look at with Southeast Missouri, a trip to Arkansas State and Connecticut. The benefit is the chance—in theory at least—to get significant playing time for second and third unit players who may be needed later in the year.

As far as the SEC portion of the schedule is concerned, it's a matter of who is healthy and who is not.