Comments Off on Mizzou Media Day Week 4: Players & Coaches Sound Off
Mizzou players and coaches met with the media for the first time since their 9-6 win against UCONN, and in anticipation of their first SEC game of the season, which takes place this Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky.
Coaches and players discussed the offense’s struggles through the first three weeks of the season, the importance of consistency and the decision to put freshman quarterback Drew Lock into the game late in the fourth quarter.
Bill Connelly of Rock M Nation & the SB Nation network joined Matt and BK on The Big Show to discuss Mizzou’s 9-6 win over Kentucky. What are his thoughts on the offensive ineptitude? And just how impressive has the defense been? We asked, Bill answered, and now you can listen.
So, yeah. It’s been as tough to watch as you initially thought. What has gone into Mizzou’s offensive ineptitude? Just about everything, honestly.
For one, Missouri running backs not named Russell Hansbrough have combined for 232 yards and no touchdowns on 76 carries (3.05 yards per carry). Vanderbilt is the only SEC team getting fewer yards per carry than Missouri is from its running backs. That ain’t great.
Some of the blame for Missouri’s lack of rushing success falls on the offensive line. Some of it is because Missouri is without potential All SEC running back Russell Hansbrough. And some of it may be because Maty Mauk was just 1-for-5 with an interception when throwing more than 10 yards down the field against UCONN.
Let’s explore that last note a little bit further.
Against UCONN, Mauk attempted just six passes of more than seven yards down the field. Nothing about this offense is vertical. That’s a pretty significant change from what we’ve seen from Mauk in the past.
In week one, Mauk attempted 11 passes of more than 20 yards. And, to be fair, that’s to be expected against a team like SEMO. Missouri clearly had a talent advantage on the edges, and they took advantage. But Mauk’s ‘gunslinger mentality’ has gone on vacation the last two weeks. After the 11 attempts of more than 20 yards in week one, he has attempted just nine passes of more than 20 yards in the last two weeks combined. Opposing defenses are sitting on those short routes because of it.
One thing that could go into Mauk’s lack of deep throws could be immediate pressure getting to him. I asked Jack Farrell of Pro Football Focus if PFF has Mauk’s pressure stats on file, and sure enough they do. Keep in mind that these statistics are only for week one and two. PFF has yet to grade week three.
Mauk was under pressure on more than 33 percent of his drop backs against SEMO and Arkansas State. When under pressure, his completion percentage dropped, his interceptions went up and his quarterback rating plummeted. That’s to be expected, but it’s good to have confirmation.
Just as interesting, at least to me, is that SEMO and Arkansas State simply didn’t blitz Mauk. He was blitzed on less than 15 percent of his drop backs, and the results were a mixed bag. But this shows that teams don’t really need to blitz him. The pressure is getting to Mauk even when teams only rush four. That means seven players are able to drop back into coverage, making it all the more difficult for Mauk to read coverages and find the open man.
Missouri’s run game is among the worst in the country right now. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. Why it’s been so bad can be traced back to a number of reasons. The offensive line isn’t getting push. The running backs aren’t hitting the holes with authority and starter Russell Hansbrough has seven total carries in the first three games. Add into that mix a passing game that’s given up on the deep ball and a lack of time for Mauk to get the ball off, and voila: you have Missouri’s offense.
Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou joined Matt and BK on The Big Show to discuss the Tigers’ running game struggles, who deserves the credit for Mizzou’s continued success along the defensive line, and this weekend’s matchup between Missouri and UCONN.
Comments Off on The Inside Slant: NFL Week 2, Three & Out & NFL Presidential Comparisons
BK and Jeff Parles are back for another week on The Inside Slant. This week the guys give their three and out – breaking down their top three games from the week that was. Plus, they give their week 2 picks & compare NFL players/coaches/owners with the GOP presidential nominees.
It’s not often you hear someone in the media say that. But I have to. I mean, I am the guy who wrote this article, suggesting the reign of “D-Line Zou” may be coming to a close. Maybe that’s not the word. Its reign would be postponed. Yeah, that’s more like it.
It seemed logical. A defensive line that loses Markus Golden, Shane Ray, Matt Hoch, Lucas Vincent, Marcus Loud and Harold Brantleyin one offseason should not only get worse, but it should be downright awful. That’s seven of the Tigers’ top nine defensive linemen from 2014. How could anyone expect the defensive line to even be average after a mass exodus like that?
And, to be fair, the Tigers’ defensive line hasn’t been as dominant as it was last year. It doesn’t have to be. Kentrell Brothers is making all of the tackles. The cornerbacks are as talented as we’ve seen under head coach Gary Pinkel. But the defensive line has been damn impressive through the first two weeks of the season.
It all starts with Mizzou redshirt sophomore defensive end Charles Harris. Harris had 19 tackles, four tackles-for-loss and two sacks in 14 games last year. He already has 10 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and two sacks in his first two games as a starter in 2015. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? Harris had four TFL in 347 snaps in 2014 (one every 86 snaps). He has six in 70 snaps this year (one every 11 snaps).
The majority of Harris’ TFL – 4.5, to be exact – came last week against Arkansas State. None of the coaches seemed particularly surprised by his performance.
“His work ethic is the best,” defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “He’s a very good player right now. And the reason he’s a very good player is because he has been relentless in pushing himself every single day to be the best.”
Harris’ work ethic has become somewhat of an urban legend around the Missouri football program. Coach Kool has a story he shares about the time he came into his office on a Saturday over the summer during Harris’ freshman year. He peeked into the weight room, and there’s Charles working out. On his off day. Just because.
On Monday, which was supposed to be the team’s off day, Harris could once again be seen in the weight room. Coach Pinkel made sure to point that out during his weekly press conference. Harris was even so kind to speak with the media in the middle of his workout before going back into the weight room.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a guy come in as a freshmen and have the work ethic and attitude, and to be able to maintain it the entire time, the way he has,” Kool said. “The last guy that reminded me of him was Ziggy Hood. He does everything right, all the time.”
“Charles has probably developed the most of anyone that I’ve seen since I’ve been here both mentally and physically,” senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “He was this skinny linebacker when I got here.”
“He came in here at 215 pounds,” Pinkel said. “He’s 255, 260 pounds now. He’s got all the intangibles. That’s why he is where he is. And it’s neat to see him getting the production now.”
If you watched Mizzou’s game against Arkansas State, you know that Charles Harris has a basketball background. Most of the coaches will tell you that Harris’ high school football film was pretty mediocre. His basketball film is where he really shined – not necessarily as a player, but his athleticism was apparent. He had that rare explosiveness that could help him develop into Mizzou’s next NFL pass rusher. Even so, it wasn’t a given that Harris would get a scholarship offer. Pete Scantlebury of PowerMizzou wrote an excellent story on Harris’ signing day decision. It was either go to Missouri Western, or sign to play football at Mizzou. It’s not everyday that you see a kid with that kind of an offer list.
“All credit to Andy Hill,” Kool said. “The way we’ve kept our coaching staff together a long time. And we’re not switching defenses every year. So Andy can go out and say ‘this guy looks like a defensive end in our system.”
It’s only been three years since the Tiger coaches decided to offer Charles Harris a scholarship. I’m not sure even the most optimistic coach in the world would have told you back then that Harris could become the player he is today.
“I think he’s got a chance to be an academic All-American, and I have to think he has a chance to be an All-American on the football someday, too,” Kool said. “I really think he’s a special kid in terms of attitude and effort.”
Coach Kool isn’t alone. Coach Pinkel can be somewhat reserved when comparing or projecting his current players. But even Pinkel doesn’t mince words when projecting the type of player that Harris can become.
“He’s got a chance to be a great, great player,” Pinkel said. “There are a lot of players that I wouldn’t say that about because I don’t know if they could emotionally deal with it. But it doesn’t matter what I say. He has his ideas of what he wants to be. And he’s a great team player.”
I was wrong. D-Line Zou isn’t going anywhere. Charles Harris has become the playmaker the Tigers so desparately needed him to be. The kid from Kansas City that Mizzou took a chance on is making the most of his opportunity. And he’s making a fool out of me.
Dave Matter covers Mizzou athletics for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and he joined Matt and BK on The Big Show on Tuesday.
Dave explained why he’s been so impressed with the Tigers’ front seven, his biggest remaining question heading into this matchup against UCONN, and will we learn anything more about Mizzou this weekend? All of that and more in our conversation with Dave Matter.
Comments Off on MIZZOU MEDIA DAY: COACHES & PLAYERS SOUND OFF
The Mizzou coaches and players met with the media on Monday in order to break down the team’s 27-20 victory over Arkansas State, and to preview the Tigers’ upcoming game against UCONN.
The big topics of the day were the team’s inability to field a healthy running back (figuratively speaking, at least), Kentrell Brothers’ continued dominance, and Charles Harris’ breaking out party. The coaches also previewed their week three opponent, UCONN, who seems to have a great run defense, but not much else to write home about.