June 17, 1999
COLUMBIA, Mo.-- The 1999 football season at the University of Missouri -
at least at the onset - will be punctuated by the changing of the
Gone are many of the stalwarts who fueled the football turnaround at MU the
last three years - guys like Corby Jones, Devin West, Harold Piersey, Craig
Heimburger, Todd Neimeyer, Justin Wyatt, Caldrinoff Easter, to name a few.
Player evaluation was important during spring football, especially on
offense where six veteran starters have departed - including game breakers
Jones and West at quarterback and tailback, respectively, and four members
of the offensive line.
Three starters depart in the defensive secondary, too.
"We use spring practice to identify our top 22 players on offense and our
top 22 players on defense. There is an emphasis on fundamentals -- blocking
and tackling, and some experimentation," Coach Larry Smith said.
And the coaching staff found some able successors to the departees, albeit
in some cases, players who will taste their first action this fall.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Smith and his staff will be able
to reload. First, the success of the past two seasons has created an air of
confidence among the Tiger holdovers, and secondly, several years of
recruiting success have elevated the MU talent pool.
And a big benefit to this year's MU team has been the availability of the
Devine Pavilion. The indoor practice facility, which opened last August,
gave the Tigers opportunities to work out throughout the winter. Smith says
the biggest beneficiaries have been the Mizzou passing and kicking games.
"We're throwing, catching and kicking the ball better than we ever have
before," he said.
Still, it will take some time for the Tigers to evolve into the same kind of
offensive juggernaut as the past two years.
"We expect early in the season that our defense will be very, very strong.
Our thinking is that they might carry our team and give the offense time to
mature," Smith said.
Missouri returns 11 starters - six on offense, and five on defense - from
last year's club that went 8-4 and defeated West Virginia, 34-31, in the
Insight.com Bowl. It was MU's best record since 1980, its first bowl victory
since 1981, and the Tigers were ranked 21st in the final Associated Press
"The thing we have to do is establish, first, that we're a winner again,"
Smith said. "Then, secondly, we have to get ourselves in a position where we
can play for a championship. And win."
QUARTERBACK - This was the most scrutinized position in the spring with four
candidates battling for the position occupied by Jones for most of the last
four years. Two emerged - sophomore Jim Dougherty (6-4, 190) and redshirt
freshman Kirk Farmer (6-5, 216).
"They basically, between the two of them, have zilch in game experience -
zero," Smith said. "So it's going to be a matter of game-to-game building of
that experience. But both are excellent leaders, guys who can take charge in
Junior Ryan Douglass, unable to wrest the job from Dougherty and Farmer,
opted to transfer to SIU-Carbondale. His departure probably moves Kurt
Propst up to the number-three position.
The only man on the MU roster who has completed a pass in a college game is
Dougherty. He shared the backup duties with Douglass last season and tossed
a 17-yard pass in the victory over Bowling Green. The son of his high school
coach, Dougherty showed in the spring that he moves the chains.
Farmer and Propst are both products of nearby Jefferson City. Farmer, whose
dad, Mike, was a Tiger QB in the early 1970s, redshirted last season and
toiled long and hard in the MU weight room. He's the most talented athlete
of the group, but also the most inexperienced.
Propst (6-2, 216) was seriously challenging for the backup role behind Jones
in spring '98 when he suffered a broken leg and spent the last year in
"I've always been a one-quarterback guy," Smith said, "but I'm not against
playing two quarterbacks if it's going to help us win. It's quite possible
that we'll go into the season with two quarterbacks.
"If you do, the important thing is that the two have to get along. There is
no room for selfishness. They have to be truly team people."
To prepare for that possibility, Smith spent time in the off-season visiting
with other coaches who've won with two signal callers, highly successful
coaches like Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Florida's Steve Spurrier and
Arizona's Dick Tomey.
RUNNING BACK - Gone is all-American Devin West, the nation's No. 5 rusher in
1998 with a school-record 1,578 yards.
So, Mizzou is likely return to a multiple tailback rotation, much like it
had two years ago with West and Brock Olivo, featuring senior DeVaughn Black
(5-11, 213), sophomore Zain Gilmore (6-1, 220), and junior Ricardo Rhodes
"I have great confidence in DeVaughn Black," Smith says of the senior who
ran for 48 yards in five carries against Kansas State last season while West
was resting a tender ankle. He was also the leading rusher in the spring
game, carrying 17 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
"Gilmore is a great young talent who just needs some seasoning, and Ricardo
Rhodes had a great off season," Smith said.
At fullback, senior Rob West (6-0, 231) is the incumbant after starting six
games last season - his first at MU. He's also the Tigers' leading returning
ball carrier. West gained 165 yards on 32 carries in '98, and also caught
seven passes for 58 yards.
Three young freshmen will support him. T.J. Leon (6-0, 215), who's often
been compared to Olivo, moved to fullback after spending his redshirt season
as a tailback. Another redshirt freshman in the mix is big Derek Perry (6-2,
245). Joe Chirumbolo (6-2, 220) spent last fall at home recovering from a
wrist injury and entered MU in January. Also back at fullback is junior
Nathan Proctor (5-11, 252).
New recruit Dan Davis (6-2, 230) is expected to challenge as well.
RECEIVERS - Missouri will be blessed with a veteran receiving corps in 1999,
a group that also stands to benefit from the addition of some talented
Senior Kent Layman (5-11, 185) is back for his third year. He's averaged 22
yards per reception the last two seasons while catching 47 passes. He needs
to gain just 116 yards this season to move into the MU career top-10 for
Also back are the two men who split the starting assignments opposite Layman
last season. Junior John Dausman (6-1, 182) used his 4.3 speed last season
to become a big-play threat. He caught 18 passes for an average gain of 20.2
yards and scored three TDs. Kareem Wise (6-3, 218) is a big target who was
troubled with inconsistency last year, but should be improved in '99 after
two years in the program.
Emerging in the spring were sophomore Eric Spencer (6-1, 170) and freshman
Travis Garvin (6-1, 182). In three spring scrimmages, Spencer caught 20
passes for 274 yards, while Garvin had 14 receptions for 147 yards. Both
boast speed, jumping ability and the elusiveness to turn a short pass into a
Garvin, a two-sport start out of Bradenton, Fla. (he may also play
basketball for the Tigers), signed with Tulane a year ago but never went to
the New Orleans school. Instead, he brought his 4.39 speed to Columbia and
entered school in January. "We're going to watch him very closely," Smith
said. "He's a guy with a lot of talent, a lot of speed."
Redshirt freshman Cam Ankele (6-1, 204) is still waiting to make his splash.
A former Florida state high school high jump champion who can make the
acrobatic catch, would have played last fall but had his season
short-circuited first by a broken collarbone and then a broken foot. He
missed most of the spring, too, with a concussion.
Now-departed seniors Jake Stueve and Eddie Brooks shouldered most of the
load at tight end the last few years. But the Tigers have a trio of bright
prospects - all third year sophomores - who are ready for action. Dwayne
Blakley (6-4, 268) started two games last season and caught five passes for
60 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Ford (6-3, 245) played in every game in
'98 and also caught five passes, scored a TD, and is the group's best
blocker. Garrett Hill (6-5, 246) was a special teams regular last year.
OFFENSIVE LINE - Four valuable Tiger starters - guards Craig Heimburger and
Cliff Smith and tackles Todd Neimeyer and Chris Meredith - played their
final games in the Black and Gold last season. But there is talent waiting
in the wings to replace them, and they'll have the advantage of building
around a likely all-America center in senior Rob Riti (6-3, 289).
Riti was the all-conference center a year ago. One of the strongest players
ever at Missouri, he broke the school squat record again last winter -
lifting an unbelievable 1,000 pounds. He's quick, mobile and intelligent,
too, and most coaches would tell you that if they had only one starter
returning on the offensive line, they'd want that player to be the center.
Actually Missouri does return a starter at left guard - sophomore Jeff
Hellerstedt (6-4, 280). He started five games last season while Smith was
injured and played well.
Sophomore Mike Hayes (6-3, 296) claimed the right guard position in the
spring, and could also serve as Riti's backup at center. Right behind him at
guard is sophomore Adrian Cole.
Mizzou is going to start flipping its tackles in 1999. Sophomore Aaron
Crittendon (6-5, 315) started the Insight.com Bowl game and is ticketed as
the starting "Quick" tackle. Sophomore Justin Bland (6-6, 321), one of last
year's plum recruits, should step in as the "Strong" tackle. Junior Joe
Glauberman (6-3, 282) is seen as a swing man who can play anywhere along the
With a front seven that may be the best in the Big 12
Conference, Missouri will look to force the action on defense in
1999. "Up front we have more experience and talent combined than at any time
since we've been here," Smith says. And the pressure that group should put
on opposing offenses should ease the transition in the secondary where the
Tigers have to replace three talented starters.
DEFENSIVE LINE - Three starters return led by Big 12 Defensive Freshman of
the Year Justin Smith (6-5, 256) and Insight.com Bowl Defensive MVP Jeff
Marriott (6-5, 300).
"We made the decision to leave Justin Smith at defensive end and give him a
chance to mature," Coach Smith said of his young defensive star. Smith, who
made 86 tackles as a rookie while starting every game, will likely move
around the formation, though, as his comfort level climbs.
"We're going to move him around to make plays in different situations, and
he will not come off of the field unless he's hurt," Smith said.
Marriott was a third-team all-Big 12 pick at nose tackle last year. He
blocked two field goals last year. The first set up a touchdown against
Nebraska and the other resulted in a TD against West Virginia in the
Insight.com Bowl game.
Starting at defensive tackle will be senior Steve Erickson (6-4, 280), "who
makes a lot of plays because he's so smart," according to the head coach.
But senior Terrell Jurineack (6-4, 275) had a great off-season and "we're
looking at ways to get both of them on the field at the same time," Smith
All-Big 12 defensive guard Justin Wyatt completed his eligibility, but
junior Pat Mingucci (6-2, 271) and redshirt freshman Cedric Harden (6-3,
283) should plug that hole nicely. Mingucci is one of the team's strongest
players and fiercest competitors.
Youngsters on the rise in the depth include junior DEs Daryl Whittington
(6-6, 240) and Barry Mazuch (6-5, 230), sophomore DT Michael Gavins (6-8,
283), and sophomore NTs Chris Ryan (6-3, 284) and Clayton McAboy (6-3, 250).
LINEBACKER - Senior Barry Odom (6-0, 229) returns for his fourth season as a
starter and will become one of Missouri's top-10 alltime tacklers this
season. Last year he alternated between the weak and strong sides.
He'll concentrate on the strong side this season, and will be supported by
sophomore Duke Revard (6-3, 235) and redshirt freshman Michael Clay (6-3,
268) who is now 100 percent after rehabilitating a bad knee last fall and
having his spring short-circuited by a spider bite.
Returning on the weakside is sophomore Jamonte Robinson (6-2, 202), who had
a terrific freshman season. He made 83 tackles to rank third on the team and
was an honorable mention Freshman All-American by Football News. He's backed
by redshirt freshman Josh O'Neal (6-1, 228), who like Odom is a product of
One of the biggest successes of the spring was plugging the hole at outside
linebacker (or "bandit" in the Mizzou nomenclature). Juniors Pat Duffy (6-1,
223) and Danny McCamy (6-3, 264) were immediate hits at the position that
last year was handled by senior Marquis Gibson.
Duffy moved to bandit last season and dropped some weight in the off-season
to improve his mobility on the perimeter. McCamy made big plays in every
game last season while splitting time with Justin Smith at defensive end.
SECONDARY - The greenest part of the MU defense will be in the secondary
where all-stars like Harold Piersey, Wade Perkins and Caldrinoff Easter are
gone, as is DBs coach Jon Hoke, who departed Mizzou to become defensive
coordinator at Florida. But several talented youngsters are ready to take
their turn and learn the ropes from new coach Brian Stewart.
The lone holdover starter is senior cornerback Carlos Posey (6-0, 197), who
was a big-play performer last year. He scored three touchdowns last year -
on a fumble return, a pass interception return, and a blocked field goal
return. The fastest man on the team, Posey utilized his speed during the
off-season to run on Missouri's indoor track team and was a provisional
qualifer to the NCAA Championships in the sprint events.
Behind him is junior Andre Roberson (5-10, 164) and transferring to Mizzou
will be former TCU starter Larry Hollinquest, who spent last year at Fort
Scott Community College.
Redshirt freshman Antoine Duncan (5-10, 181) rose to the top of the heap in
the spring battle to fill Perkins' vacated corner spot opposite Posey. Close
behind him is another redshirt freshman - John McPherson (5-11, 176).
Also is in the mix is junior Andre Roberson (5-10, 164).
There are no worries at free safety where junior Julian Jones (5-11, 188)
steps in for Piersey. He was the MVP of the Insight.com Bowl after he made
10 tackles, intercepted a pass, and blocked a punt. He was the Tigers' top
reserve at every secondary position last year and was also Mizzou's Special
At strong safety, sophomore Clarence Jones (6-1, 199) gets the first crack
at the position held down by Easter the last three years. Jones lettered on
special teams last year and saw some time in the secondary.
Second-teamer Harold Hendricks (6-3, 215), a junior, is coming back from a
knee injury that scuttled the '98 campaign for him.
Mistakes in the kicking game cost the Tigers three
victories last season. Hopefully, added experience will
eliminate those problems in 1999.
The four men who handled the lion's share of the of placekicking duties
return - sophomores Brian Long, Alexander St. Peter and Brad Hammerich, and
senior Tim Geiger. Larry Smith expects Long to handle the PAT/FG duties.
Last year, he was 13-15 on extra points and 3-4 on field goals. Hammerich
will be the kickoff man.
Mizzou's punters return, too - senior Vince Sebo and sophomore Jared
Gilpin. Sebo has worked on changing from a three-step to a two-step punter.
He missed the Black-and-Gold Game after having knee surgery to correct a
cartilage problem. St. Peter also spent time working as a punter in the
Smith's charge to his punters - work on maximum hang-time, not distance.
The return game is solid. Ricardo Rhodes averaged 31.3 yards per kickoff
return last season. Arty Johnson and Travis Garvin are the likely punt
Deep snapper Ben Davidson and holder J.R. Romine also return.