CB Michael Harden

2002 Statistics

Coach: Gary Pinkel
9-14, 2 years
2002 Record: 5-7
vs. Illinois WON 33-20
at Bowling Green LOST 28-51
at Nebraska LOST 13-24
at Texas Tech LOST 38-52
at Iowa State LOST 35-42
at Texas A&M WON 33-27 (3OT)

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

This Missouri program is beginning to show signs of putting themselves into the upper-echelon of the Big XII. Gary Pinkel and his crew are slowly but surely making the Tigers contenders, giving the Missouri faithful reason to start thinking about the Big XII Championship. But they'll need about a year (or so) more. 2003 will be a transition year. They did not make it to a 2002 bowl game, but next year they could tentatively be looking at the BCS. As for this year, the questions on the offensive line, secondary and front-four, as well as Brad Smith adjusting to his first year of everybody knowing who he is, will leave them in the middle somewhere.

The key for their success depends on establishing a strong running game. Abron and one more back will need to have collective success to keep Smith's talents viable against opposing defenses. Not only that, but they really haven't shown anyone who can be that clutch guy catching the ball. Until that guy emerges, the Tigers remain just a bit above decent. Defensively, they have to prove that they can effectively rush the quarterback and then make plays in the secondary, ala nemesis Oklahoma. The Tigers will be wise to expose some young talent this year to prep for a Big 12 title run next season.

The Tigers will jump out to a strong start with winnable tilts versus Illinois and Nebraska. But road games at Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas State (all in NC.net's Top 25) make 2003 a set-up year and not one for title hopes of any sort. Look for them to beat some of the tougher conference foes but also lose games they shouldn't. Playing in this tough conference will yield a competitive schedule and therefore decent rankings even with losses. Four losses or less is a realistic achievement that would go a long way toward measuring this squad and giving it identity for an even stronger 2004. The cycles of college football have this Tiger team positioned properly to optimize any chances availed to them. But the secondary will lose too many games for this year's edition to reach another level.

Projected 2003 record: 7-5
QB Sonny Riccio
OG Cliff Young
DE Atiyyah Ellison
ROV Dedrick Harrington
QB - 4.5 DL - 2
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 2
OL - 4.5 ..

Passing: Brad Smith, 366-196-6, 2333 yds., 15 TD's

Rushing: Brad Smith, 193 att., 1029 yds., 7 TD's

Receiving: Darius Outlaw, 46 rec., 552 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Zack Abron, 17 TD's, 102 pts.

Punting: Brock Harvey, 54 punts, 42.5 avg.

Kicking: Michael Matheny, 9-13 FG, 40-42 PAT, 67 pts.

Tackles: James Kinney, 144 tot., 83 solo

Sacks: James Kinney, 6 sacks

Interceptions: Michael Harden, 2 for 7 yds.

Kickoff returns: Shirdonya Mitchell, 16 ret., 24.1 avg.

Punt returns: Marcus James, 24 ret., 13.6 avg.


OT Rob Droege
OFFENSE: Justin Gage-WR, Ben Fredrickson-TE
DEFENSE: Antwaun Bynum-DE, Keith Wright-DT, Sean Doyle-LB, Gary Anthony-WHIP, R.J. Jones-CB, Antoine Duncan-CB, Tauras Ferguson-ROV

written by Tim Chapman

Only now a sophomore, then-freshman QB Brad Smith was a defensive coordinator's nightmare. His talents helped him become only the second player in Division I football to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000. He has some of the fleetest feet ever seen to go along with astonishing football intelligence that is so rare in such an inexperienced player. His heady play (15 TDs against only six INTs) helped keep the Tigers in virtually every game- even against the big boys. Smith's role this season will be amplified immensely, as teams will undoubtedly set up game plans specifically to stop him. Expect him to meet any challenges once again and throw his name as next in line of Donovan McNabbs and Michael Vicks
What will make Smith especially effective will be the return of the entire offensive line. Headed by seniors A.J. Ricker and Rob Droege, this group has had a year under their belt to mesh and get a sense of what their stellar QB can do and what his tendencies are - a key when playing with an improviser like Smith. They push the line of scrimmage forward and should easily attain 4.45 yards-per-carry again to pave the way for a young hoard of backs. All said though, a year together will do this squad wonders and account for much of the offensive success. Smith will need all the time he can get with the inexperienced receiving corps.

Smith will achieve, but an improved running game would certainly help his (and therefore the team's) cause. The return of senior RB Zach Abron is a big plus, but behind him is a cupboard full of unopened, new products. Mizzou will also get a boost from JUCO transfer Damien Nash. Don't get us wrong, this group is strong, but they must step up and take the anticipated heat off of Smith.

With Justin Gage graduated, who will Smith be throwing the ball to? The guys who comes back with the most impact are junior WR Thomson Omboga (21 catches) and senior Darius Outlaw. Omboga only played in seven games, but proved he makes a difference Smith can immediately go to when needed. How will he step up as the number one target? Quite well, we think. Following in the footsteps of QB-turned-WR Justin Gage is Darius Outlaw. After two years behind center, he made a surprisingly quick transformation into a quality wide receiver last season, despite never having played the position before in organized football. He is a prime candidate to become MU's go-to receiver. A starter a year ago, Marcus James was up and down. Many will be tried out to give Smith the maximum targets this three-WR offense can offer.


QB Brad Smith


Returning Starters in bold
QB Brad Smith-So (6-3, 201) Sonny Riccio-So (6-2, 200)
TB Zack Abron-Sr (5-10, 228) Tim Starks-Sr (6-1, 203)
WR Sean Coffey-So (6-6, 224) Darius Outlaw-Sr (6-2, 180)
WR Thomson Omboga-Jr (6-2, 189) Arnold Britt-So (6-2, 182)
WR Marcus James-Sr (5-8, 174) Chris Crosby-So (6-3, 202)
TE J.D. McCoy-Sr (6-1, 258) Clint Matthews-Jr (6-2, 230)
OT Rob Droege-Sr (6-6, 300) Tony Clinker-Jr (6-4, 297)
OG Tony Palmer-So (6-3, 303) Joe Gianino-Jr (6-3, 300)
C A.J. Ricker-Sr (6-4, 295) Scott Sells-Sr (6-5, 292)
OG Cliff Young-Sr (6-2, 300) Mike Cook-Fr (6-3, 317)
OT Scott Paffrath-Jr (6-5, 285) Steven Sanchez-Sr (6-4, 301)
K Michael Matheny-Sr (6-2, 196) Alex Pettersen-Fr (6-4, 202)



written by Tim Chapman

The defensive strength this year will be the linebacking corps. The Tigers bring back junior MLB James Kinney and his great instinct and knack for making big plays look routine. He will be the powder to ignite this unit. WHIP (OLB) Jason Simpson compliments Kinney quite nicely. These two will need to pass on their expertise to the youthful group of athletes vying for the other LB position. This group will dictate the pace with relentless stunts and blitz schemes that will look to help aid a sorely lacking secondary. Controlling the short stuff is a start this crew can effect.

The secondary looks to be better than last year as they return a handful of starters. But they came from a crew that finished 113th in pass defense (91st in pass efficiency defense). The leader of the secondary is senior CB Michael Harden. Harden's 15 pass breakups show his potential. He is quick to the ball and brings a punch with him. The two CBs will put pressure on the outside and leave much in the middle, where junior FS Marcus King returns with a new starting ROVER. King plays a nice middle safety, but needs to bring more of a threatening presence across the middle. He will be especially important while the newcomer gets used to the ROVER position full time. Mizzou might look to their recruiting class again for help as far as depth goes. JUCO transfer CB Nino Williams and true frosh SAF Darnell Terrell will be names that pop up immediately - especially Williams. He brings lightning speed and a hard-hitting mentality to a defense that could use an attitude boost. Keeping the play in front of them will drastically reduce these rankings.

The front-four loses their two best. Senior Rusty Groth will get first crack at the defensive end spot vacated by Antwaun Bynum. What Tiger fans may actually see is the emergence of redshirt frosh Brian Smith, who was a stud in high school. Smith is a fierce pass-rusher with great speed and added strength and experience of the defensive system during his redshirt year. Smith's emergence (hopefully early) would be a massive boost to this Missouri pass rush. In the middle is the return of Russ Bell, and All-American in track and field. While Russ focuses his spring on throwing the discus, new battles should emerge in an effort to locate rotation and depth. The DL could easily be a thorn in any hopes of making strides in the conference. Some folks will have to step up and play better in order to overcome the 2000 yards given up on the ground last fall.


LB James Kinney


Returning Starters in bold
DE Brian Smith-Fr (6-4, 210) Elgin Childress-So (6-1, 241)
DT Phil Pitts-Jr (6-1, 276) Atiyyah Ellison-Jr (6-4, 290)
NT Russ Bell-Sr (6-2, 290) C.J. Mosley-So (6-3, 289)
DE Zach Ville-Jr (6-2, 272) Rusty Groth-Sr (6-4, 260)
LB James Kinney-Jr (6-1, 238) Brandon Barnes-Sr (6-3, 227)
LB Henry Sweat-Jr (6-0, 230) Derrick Ming-So (5-11, 243)
WHIP Jason Simpson-So (6-1, 193) Brian Fuller-Jr (5-11, 190)
CB Marcus King-Jr (5-11, 188) A.J. Kincade-So (5-11, 180)
CB Michael Harden-Sr (5-11, 190) Calvin Washington-So (6-1, 192)
ROV Dedrick Harrington-Fr (6-4, 223) Justin Scott-So (6-1, 196)
FS Nino Williams-Jr (6-1, 183) David Overstreet-Fr (6-0, 195)
P Brock Harvey-Jr (6-1, 197) Todd Gohsler-Sr (6-1, 196)




The Tigers appear to be in good shape, returning both junior punter Brock Harvey and senior placekicker Michael Matheny. Harvey averaged 42 yards a punt. Coverage was strong, too, promising good field-position for these Tigers.

Matheny hit on 9-of-13 FGs, but had a long of only 44 yards. His consistency will be a big factor in any 2003 Tiger success, especially if defenses can thwart this versatile offense in the red zone.


Coach Gary Pinkel said the one thing he has yet to see, which must occur for them to be a better team in 2003, is consistency- on both sides of the ball. He says they need to learn to finish and remain constant both offensively and defensively… Backup QB Sonny Riccio proved there is indeed depth behind Brad Smith, should he go down with injury (God forbid). Riccio displayed a good handle on the offense (mainly the passing game) and was impressively accurate on his throws… There was a big improvement in run-blocking this spring, which sat very well with Pinkel. With the Tigers' run game needing a shot in the arm (or leg), polished blocking is certainly a welcomed progress. There is also plentitude of depth on this front, which will pay off down the line. Speaking of the run game, Zack Abron is a bomb waiting to erupt. He had a solid spring and Pinkel legitimately believes he is the best back in the Big 12. Hopeful talent Damien Nash spent all spring rehabbing a knee… Redshirt frosh TE DeQuincy Howard has materialized as a player who can help this offense. He is athletically blessed and has added to his frame, making him a valued blocker as well. We also feel JUCO transfer Victor Sesay will arrive in the fall and make some noise. The Tigers wish to get their TEs more involved this year and are gifted with depth.

In a points-by-performance scoring system, the defense out-dueled the offense in this year's spring game. The defensive line was the subject of talk, as it was shuffled a bit and brings a new look. One move had (last year's starting DE) Atiyyah Ellison pushed inside to DT. Coaches were not as pleased with his work outside, but found him to be much stronger and more valuable on the interior… Backup LB Derrick Ming has exorbitant hopes resting on his shoulders from the coaching staff. He is a strong player with sound smarts at the LB position. Coaches are pushing him to break through and emerge as an impact player. For now, he is battling Emmett Morris for the backup spot… Shirdonya Mitchell has moved from WR to CB and defensive coaches feel very good about the move. He is still grasping technique and scheme, but his recovery speed is remarkable. He and Calvin Washington will see action as extra DBs in passing situations… Dedrick Harrington had such an appealing spring that he has taken over the ROVER position and comfortably distanced himself from backup Justin Scott. He has great size and can hit like a Mack truck. Look for big things from this youngster… Free safety Nino Williams will be a guy Mizzou fans are gonna love and opponents are gonna hate! He's stepped up to be a physical and vocal leader on this defense. He'll be a good one folks! Chappy says so.

Incumbent PK Mike Matheny has not been very consistent this spring and has seen stern competition from Alex Pettersen. Pettersen has a strong leg and may kickoff as well. Brock Harvey has been punting better and heads into the season as one of the more promising fourth down foot-cannons in the league… Shirdonya Mitchell has blazing 4.3 speed and will be looked upon to handle kickoffs this year. Outlaw and Omboga will drop back for punts, and may also be thrown into the KR mix as well.