May 23, 2007

Big 12 Breakdown: Missouri

Ask Gary Pinkel. In his tenure, optimism has never been greater around Missouri prior to a season. Good fortune could follow Missouri as Pinkel enters Year No. 7 with an abundance of returning starters and a hungry Chase Daniel. For better or worse, meetings against Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech to start the Big 12 will make it a memorable campaign.

BRIEFLY: Pinkel, Daniel could deliver special season

The knock was that Gary Pinkel couldn't deliver a North crown with the amazing Brad Smith. But since 2004 the Tigers have only gotten better and coming off back-to-back bowl seasons, they seem primed for something special behind Chase Daniel, who returns after establishing single-season school records for total offense (3,906 yards), passing yards (3,527) and touchdown passes (29) in his first year as the starter.

The key? Pinkel has surrounded Daniel with more and more talent, so much in fact that the problem in the spring was getting the ball to everyone. Good problem to have. Make no mistake, Pinkel and his Tigers, who return eight starters on offense and five on a defense bent upon improvement, couldn't be happier in the overall scope as training camp looms near in Columbia.

"The enthusiasm and leadership, and attitude has been as good as it's ever been," Pinkel said.

Pinkel isn't gloating when he says, "I think we have the potential to be a very good football team." Rather, it's simply a reality coming off three second-place finishes in the North and with a nucleus intact. Pinkel discussed "expectations" and "the process" with his team in the final meeting of spring.

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