Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Aim at Surprising People Schedule Tougher, but Mu Will Be Too, According to Smith

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Aim at Surprising People Schedule Tougher, but Mu Will Be Too, According to Smith

Article excerpt

The Missouri Tigers football players and coaches set Thursday aside as a day to mingle with the media, pose for photos and explain why the program no longer is college football's bastion of false hope.

"We're sick of it, but talking about it won't prove anything," said senior linebacker Daryl Chatman at the media day event held on Faurot Field. "We see those polls and it makes us realize that we're going to surprise a lot of people."

To surprise people, the Tigers will have to make a dent in a schedule that is far more daunting than those of the 3-8 seasons - the 1996 docket includes five teams from last season's Associated Press final top 25 poll.

However, the Tigers truly are more talented than last season's team - especially at the skill positions - as well as more experienced.

"We have more speed on the field and we block better," Tigers coach Larry Smith said. "These guys are young, but they're a year older and we expect more out of them.

"The bottom line right now is to show some improvement in the win-loss column. We have to win more than three games."

Smith lauded his secondary as the anchor of "not only the defense, but the entire team," saying it is the source of the team's best talent and experience. Included are seniors DeMontie Cross and Clayton Baker, junior Shad Criss and sophomore Caldrinoff Easter.

Questions concerning the Tigers' quarterback shuffle were handled with care by all involved.

Sophomores Kent Skornia and Corby Jones seem to be the favorites for the post, but Smith said redshirt freshman John McArthur made it a "pretty good dogfight" when he arrived at spring practice as the team's best conditioned player by the strength coaches' standards.

"Right now it's like musical chairs," said Skornia, who played in seven games last season as a freshman. "You just have to make sure you get a chair."

Contrary to Smith's claim that the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse has a backlog of applications to process, causing delayed approval of freshmen Ricardo Rhodes, Daryl Whittington and Pat Mingucci, a Clearinghouse spokesperson said Thursday there is no such backlog. …

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