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Q&A: SEC Network’s Cubelic breaks down MU heading into ’17

April 15, 2017 GMT

Former Auburn lineman and current SEC football analyst Cole Cubelic — who is on the call for the SEC Network today for Missouri’s Black & Gold Game — talked to the Missourian about what to expect from MU football ahead of the 2017 season.

Knowing how Missouri performed last year (4–8), what are the biggest challenges ahead of the Tigers for this season?

“I think the biggest challenges are just going to be finding a way to get more consistent and being able to compete on a more regular basis. You saw flashes of guys on both sides of the ball that could be really good or great at times last year. This is the only team in the country that returns a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver. Obviously, production is not an issue. I think with young football teams, they don’t necessarily understand how to play the game. They understand their position, or what to do when they get the ball in their hands, but it’s managing an entire game that takes you a bit longer to fully grasp and what to do when you’re not going to have the football, what to do in game situation. Situational football becomes more second nature as you get older.”

What are Missouri’s advantages?

“I think there’s a bit more staff continuity. There are a few changes that Coach (Barry) Odom has brought that he’s excited about, of course bringing his brother (Brian) on (as outsider linebackers coach), (defensive line coach) Brick Haley in. The more comfortable a coach can be with their staff, the less hands-on they feel they need to be with everything involving the entire football team. We’re sort of seeing this trend now, where if you go back 10-12 years ago, the trend seemed to be the coordinator got the head-coaching job, he’s going to call one side of the ball and that was it. Now we’re shifting back to the CEO head football coach because it’s becoming too much. Everything can’t be done by one guy. You see now that guys with great organizational skills like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney have great leadership ability. Those guys understand that they need to allow other members of the staff to be able to take more responsibility. I think that’s something that will help this team. I think this team is just going to be a year older, and if they can get production from some of those junior college guys, specifically on defense, I think they have a chance to be competitive.”

What can Missouri fans expect from Drew Lock in his third season?

“You look back to in high school when he had basketball right after football, he’d be in the gym the next few months and wouldn’t really pick up the football until the spring. This might be the first full calendar year that he was just a football guy. I think you’ll see a pretty big jump from him. He’s the oldest returning quarterback in the conference. His 20 career starts are the most in the SEC, and we’re supposed to have some really good quarterbacks in this league next year. But Lock has more experience than all of them. The experience is there. Now it’s just learning how to manage the game, where to get the ball in certain situations, where to be in certain situations. I think he knows how to go to his team and demand things out of them. I don’t think there will be question if that call should or should not have been made.”

Does the defensive line falter with Marcell Frazier out until fall?

“This defense is used to getting pressure with somebody off the edge. He’s their best pass rusher. You go back to 2013 and 2014, where this team was first in sacks, and then they fall to eighth and seventh the next two years, they had those household names like Michael Sam and Shane Ray. Marcell Frazier might not be that talented, but he’s the guy, from an individual standpoint, I think can really affect the pocket off the edge. It won’t hurt them that he’s not there now because that gives you a chance to develop some of the younger kids and see who will want to be the next Charles Harris or Marcell Frazier when he’s gone. So they’re going to get their reps and become valuable, especially late in the season when Missouri has a tough fourth quarter of the season. With Frazier being out, I think that only helps you develop more depth right now.”

What will the offensive line look like, with the season it had last year?

“I think they’ll be even more physical this year. Usually, when you play that position, the more practice you get, especially with the guys next to you, the less you have to think upfront. That usually allows you to play hard and to bring physicality to the next level. Being together in game situations and having gone through as many game reps as they have I think only makes them a more dangerous group this fall. And you’ve got guys like Tre’Vour Simms who really want to be a part of that lineup. The competition makes everyone better. They finally have some depth up there, and they finally have some younger kids pushing for playing time, and that really pushes your veterans to go out there and get better. They can’t be complacent, or they might not be on the field when the season comes.”

What do spring games do for a football team?

“Developing depth, seeing who’s next in line and giving you an idea of who’s maybe grown over the spring and who’s going to compete next fall is what spring games show.”

Supervising editor is Pete Bland.