COMMENTARY: 23 Sports Analysts Weigh In on Black and Gold Game

Chinmay Vaidya:

It was a disappointing 2012 campaign for the Missouri football team, but the Tigers resumed spring practice and are ready for the annual Black and Gold game. After a 5-7 showing in its inaugural SEC season, Missouri is looking to contend in the conference and many factors will determine what the Tigers do next fall.

The most important aspect of the spring game is the rushing attack, which will be led by Henry Josey. The senior running back missed all of last season with an injury, but is reportedly 100 percent ready for contact, according to Josey’s ability to make cuts, hit gaps and explode in the open field should be noted in the game.

In the SEC, games aren’t won without defense, and Missouri is hurting on that side of the ball. Six players from last year won’t be coming back, impacting all three layers of the unit. The line loses Sheldon Richardson, who wreaked havoc on the interior to collect four sacks. Fans should look to last year’s sack leader Michael Sam (4.5) to continue his pass-rushing dominance. Defensive tackle Kony Ealy should also be a factor to keep an eye out for.

The linebackers say goodbye to Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden, who combined for 136 tackles. It’ll be up to Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner to replace the pair. Wilson and Bonner have enough experience to handle the role, but gauging their performance in a game situation is important to track their progress.

The secondary loses half its arsenal with Kip Edwards and Kenronte Walker departing. Standout cornerback E.J. Gaines will shoulder more weight as Randy Ponder and Braylon Webb will reinforce the coverage group. It is important to observe whether or not the secondary holds together, especially on deep throws.

James Franklin was banged up last season. The dynamic quarterback missed a portion of at least six games, including Alabama, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. While Franklin should be healthy going into the contest, it is important that his mobility and passing are not affected by lingering injury problems.

Former No. 1 wide receiver recruit Dorial Green-Beckham developed into a solid player over the course of last season. The freshman led the team in touchdowns with five, and caught 28 balls for 395 yards. Green-Beckham will team up with last year’s leading receivers Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington as the Tiger trio aspires to put up big numbers through the air. Their performance at the spring game should be exciting to watch.

The offensive line was a carousel last year, in which Mizzou tried over 20 combinations due to injuries. Although Elvis Fisher is gone, the Tigers added plenty of talent and size with the recruiting class. It is important that this group doesn’t have trouble in the spring contest and can find consistency going into the 2013 season.

The Black and Gold game might not be significant in terms of results, but it is important for the players to develop chemistry, address issues and change strategy heading into the fall.

Mike Bonomo:

With a disappointing 2012 season in the past, the Mizzou football team has begun looking ahead to 2013. A few scrimmages are already in the books leading up to Saturday’s Black and Gold Spring Game, when fans will get their first look at next year’s team.

Arguably the biggest storyline will be surrounding the quarterback position, as incumbent starter James Franklin is in battle for the starting spot in his senior season with sophomore Corbin Berkstresser and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk.

Franklin, who had 2872 passing yards and 981 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2011, was expected to have a solid hold on the starting job for his final two years. But after a 2012 season in which he was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, the spot has opened up.

Berkstresser often struggled in relief of Franklin last year, completing only 49.7 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Mauk, who holds numerous national high school passing records, is expected to be Franklin’s main competition, after sitting out all of last year. However Franklin should be considered the favorite, barring another injury.

Mizzou fans should also watch the running back position as Henry Josey is finally back from the catastrophic knee injury that forced him out of the tail end of 2011 and the entire 2012 season. Josey was averaging 8.06 yards per carry and had scored nine touchdowns in 10 games before tearing the patellar tendon, ACL and MCL in his left knee. If he comes back as the same player as he was, Josey can potentially do more damage than the departing 2012 team-MVP Kendial Lawrence.

The defense that carried the Tigers through last season is losing star defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, along with starting linebackers Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden and defensive backs Kip Edwards and Kenronte Walker. However, Kony Ealy is a potential emerging star up front while linebacker Donovan Bonner earned a lot of experience last year and leading tackler Andrew Wilson returns to lead the defense.

A few other things to look out for include sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham’s development after starting to break out in the second half of the 2012 season. Also the play in the trenches on both sides of the ball was the biggest change in the move to the SEC and the team is sure to be working on that.

Finally, watch the offense as a whole under new offensive coordinator Josh Henson. David Yost took a lot of heat from fans last year, before leaving in the offseason. A former offensive line coach who played for Oklahoma State’s run heavy teams of the late 90’s, expect Henson to install more traditional running plays and get the tight ends more involved in the passing game.

Overall, the Spring Game has little merit for the future, however it gives fans hope and something to look forward to.

The game will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.