July 21, 2008

Tigers take on a new role

KANSAS CITY, MO--On Nov. 24, 2007 Missouri stood atop the college football universe. After a season that had fallen nothing short of spectacular, Mizzou completed a long journey to the top of the rankings after beating the Kansas Jayhawks. Years of suffering seemed to be forgotten with only one game standing between the Tigers and a shot at the national championship. Those hopes and dreams were quickly dashed as Mizzou received their second loss of the year at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners.

"That game is totally wiped out of my mind," Chase Daniel said. "We did not play as well as we should of, and bottom line, they were the better team. I think a lot of us forgot about that within three weeks when we played Arkansas."

Monday marked a chance to look forward. The Tigers were one of the first four teams to meet the national media at Big 12 Media Days in Kansas City and they faced a new line of questioning from previous years. How does it feel to be the hunted? How do you stay on top this year?

Gary Pinkel was the first to take the stand and face a barrage of questions on the recent success of the program. In regards to being the hunted, Pinkel knows he can count on his seniors for help.

"I think that's always a concern," the coach said. "I kind of filter that down with our seniors. As I look at that, I look at the seniors from a leadership standpoint, they kind of help me by being a watchdog over the team."

"We have more recognition and we are in the national spotlight, but we are just going to take it one game at a time and work hard every week," Coffman said. "I think we are ready and the leaders on the team and the coaches are keeping everybody having level heads."

Similar to Coffman, all of the players that were present stuck by Pinkel's motto of taking it one game at a time, especially with the added pressure on the team this year.

"We certainly haven't arrived. We won the Big 12 North last year, but the University of Missouri has not won a Big 12 Championship yet," he said. "So we have made progress. Certainly, I am proud of the players in the program and certainly the seniors a year ago that really helped make the change. Look at the numbers they have had and then actually the seniors coming in that they have the potential to do."

With the Illinois game only about six weeks away, the Tigers say they are ready right now.

"I don't think we need a tune-up," Maclin said. "Illinois is a great team and it is a great time to go out and make a statement."

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