SAN ANTONIO - Missouri coach Gary Pinkel used the word “potential six times in his opening statement about his team at Tuesday's Big 12 media day.
The Tigers went 8-5 in 2006 and with nine starters back for one of the nation's most powerful offenses, anything short of a trip to the league championship game will be a disappointment.
Missouri has never even won the Big 12 North and has only three winning seasons since 2000, so expectations this high are fairly rare around Columbia. Pinkel says it's vital for the Tigers to live up to them this year.
“Ultimately, to receive the respect you want to have, you have to win at a higher level than we've done, Pinkel said. “I think we have the potential to be pretty good. But we'll see.
Missouri had the nation's eighth-ranked offense in 2006, averaging 426 yards per game. Quarterback Chase Daniel, the top five rushers and the top three receivers from last year are all back.
Pinkel stopped short of saying the offense is unstoppable. The Tigers lost all four games last season when they were held to 20 points or fewer.
“I wish we could score against anybody anytime, Pinkel said. “That's not the case or we probably would've gone undefeated. The challenge is can we reach the potential on offense?
Daniel threw for 3,527 yards and a school-record 28 touchdowns in 2006, his first full season as the starter. Pinkel expects an even better season from Daniel because he has more experienced targets this year.
“He's got a lot of people around him, Pinkel said. “A lot of people can make plays, most everybody we had a year ago.
“We have more experience than what might appear, he said. “We're young in some of our backup spots, but I think we've also got some talent. We run well. We've got some depth there.
The Tigers won their first six games last season, allowing 12 points per game. They lost five of their last seven, giving up 27 points per game in the losses.
Senior nose tackle Lorenzo Williams, who had six sacks last season, said facing one of the nation's best offenses in practice is already helping the defense improve.
“We do a pretty good job of stopping them, Williams said. “If we can keep them down, we can pretty much stick with any offense in the Big 12.
Daniel and Williams talked about the upcoming season - and the hype - during a recent round of golf. Missouri cracked the national rankings during their 6-0 start and the Tigers will draw on that to deal with it this year.
“Mentally, we got kind of strained, being 6-0, national spotlight. It got kind of tough keeping that same drive to keep winning, Williams said.