July 2, 2008

Summer showcasing Tiger defense

Last summer, the Missouri Tigers carried a quiet confidence into summer workouts. That confidence was based largely upon an offense that was expected to be one of the nation's best. That unit delivered, finishing 8th in the nation in scoring and 5th in total offense.

The Tigers came through with the best season in school history, though, largely because of a defense that surpassed expectations, particularly once conference play began. Mizzou was third in scoring defense and first in yards allowed in Big 12 play.

This year, the country is expecting a lot more out of Mizzou on that side of the football. The defense certainly knows the expectations are out there. In fact, the Tigers embrace them.

"We got the whole D back. You can't taking nothing from that," said likely pre-season all-American William Moore. "Guys are ready to step in. Jaron Baston's ready to step in and Justin Garrett's ready to step in so this is going to be a strength of the team."

Baston replaces the only departed starter from the Cotton Bowl, defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams. Garrett started the final six games of last year after Pig Brown went down with a season-ending injury. But it is Moore and Sean Weatherspoon who will draw most of the ink and lead the Tiger defense in 2008.

"The offense, they've been doing it for the past two years. We're just trying to step our game up," said Weatherspoon. "We know those guys are going to win a lot of games doing what they do. We want to be out there on that last drive with our backs up against the wall and make some plays to win the game. Kind of like the Illinois game last year."

The experience on defense virtually every national expert has pegged the Tigers in their pre-season top ten. With less than two months remaining until the opener against Illinois, Mizzou's "other unit" is ready to take on all comers. And Weatherspoon isn't shy about his expectations:

"Everything we put in last year was so much about reversing the things we had go on the year before. Now, when we start camp, we're going to do a whole different thing and we're going to be better than last year," he said. "We're going to win a lot of games this year."




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