Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Ready to End a Decade of Suffering `We're Going to Get over Closeness Hump'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Ready to End a Decade of Suffering `We're Going to Get over Closeness Hump'

Article excerpt

Three days before they open the 1993 season, the Missouri Tigers are pacing, fidgeting and trying to contain their emotions.

"I'm kind of like an expectant father right now," defensive coordinator Skip Hall said. "We're going to have a baby Saturday, and I can't wait to see what it's going to be."

The ultrasound offers no projection of MU's 1 p.m. game with Illinois at Faurot Field. But all indications are that what will show up will be a Mizzou team that is mature, healthy, cohesive and talented.

"I feel much more at home right now," said Mizzou coach Bob Stull, who enters his fifth season and for the first time has a roster consisting exclusively of his recruits. "Things are pretty much organized and under control."

No embarrassing rash of offseason arrests (see: 1991). No debilitating spate of injuries (also 1991). And no unsettled positions entering the season (see: 1992 - average of 57 players used in each nonconference game).

"What we were doing was putting them out there and hoping for the best," Stull said, laughing.

Instead, Mizzou will offer a team that learned in 1992 it could compete with top 10 foes such as Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M.

"I think this year we're going to get over the closeness hump," junior tailback Joe Freeman said.

And a team that believes a decade of suffering is ready to end.

"All the pain, all the turmoil, all the people down on us, people yelling at us, making fun of us," MU senior guard Mike Bedosky said. "A winning season and a bowl game would make it all worthwhile."

Essential to those hopes is the defense engineered by Hall, the fourth coordinator in as many seasons, a defense that was trampled for 403 points two years ago.

Although the Tigers hacked 134 points from that generous yield in 1992, they still were last in the Big Eight Conference in most categories.

Many at MU believe that the defense will make the transition from liability to asset. They cite eight returning starters, Hall's aggressive scheme and eight players who run faster than 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash,

"They hustle. They run to the ball. They make plays. They're vicious," Freeman said. "I've never seen them like that. They're bloody. And that's the way a defense should be."

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter considers the defense the best group he's seen at MU.

"And they're playing a scheme that fits them," said Koetter, who is most impressed by junior inside linebackers Travis McDonald and Darryl Major (Mehlville). "Those are two men over there."

Although there are similarities to the style installed by Don Lindsey last season, Hall said MU is much more "movement-oriented" now.

"Without divulging a lot, once you see us play, you'll see a difference - hopefully a positive one," he said.

Fretfulness aside, Hall is enthused about MU's "ability, mobility and hostility. …

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