Brash Beisel expecting improved Missouri defense

Brash Beisel expecting improved Missouri defense

July 25th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Missouri senior linebacker Eric Beisel gave Arkansas bulletin-board material before last November's game, and his Tigers backed him up with 28-24 upset of the Razorbacks.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

MISSOURI

› Last season: 4-8 (2-6 SEC)

Opener: Sept. 2 vs. Missouri State (kickoff time and television network TBA)

› Fun fact: The league’s biggest blowout last season by an SEC team was not administered by Alabama but by Missouri, which humiliated Delaware State 79-0.

› COMING WEDNESDAY: South Carolina

Missouri senior middle linebacker Eric Beisel may have the biggest mouth in Southeastern Conference football.

If only more people could discover it.

Beisel said before last season's regular-season finale that it would be "a huge mistake" for Arkansas to show up at Faurot Field. Missouri's Tigers were just 3-8 entering that game, but they backed Beisel's words by rallying from a 24-7 halftime deficit and pulling off a 28-24 upset.

"I've always been like this," Beisel said at SEC media days. "I might have been banned from doing interviews for a little while there. I've always been this way. It's fun. I like to make things a little more personal.

"It's an entertainment business, and it's our job to give our fans a show."

Beisel admitted that Missouri coach Barry Odom wasn't the biggest fan of the bulletin-board material — "Coach Odom called me into his office and said, 'What the heck are you doing?'" Beisel said — and it made for an interesting week.

"I turned my social media off the second I looked at my phone and saw where I had over a thousand notifications on Twitter," he said. "I stirred the pot a little a bit and poked the bear, but it's really more poking a cute little kitten with the team that we were playing. It's always exciting to make it more than just a football game."

What makes Beisel's brashness all the more intriguing is that he's not exactly the Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan or even the Richard Sherman of his sport. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder from Fenton, Mo., played mostly special teams until last season and enters his last go-around in Columbia with just five career starts.

Beisel compiled 44 tackles and six tackles for loss last year for the Tigers, who finished last in the SEC East with a 2-6 record.

"Eric did a great job towards the end of the year last year of being put in position to go lead our football team," Odom said. "Since the season's been over, he has really gathered that senior class together. It's a great group of 18 kids.

"They've come together and decided they are going to draw a line in the sand and go make Mizzou football what it's supposed to be."

Missouri won Eastern Division titles in 2013 and 2014 but has gone 3-13 in SEC games since. The 2015 Tigers were inept because they couldn't score, and last year's team struggled to stop anybody.

Tennessee hung 63 points on the Tigers a year ago, and Middle Tennessee State racked up 51.

"There were lots of lessons to learn last year and lots of trial and error," Beisel said. "It gave us some confidence going into this season — not that I need any more confidence — and it fired us up. I think we needed it, and now we're moving forward."

Vols preview, SEC football series

The Tigers return 10 offensive starters, including the 1-2 punch of junior quarterback Drew Lock and sophomore running back Damarea Crockett. Lock completed 237 of 434 passes last season (54.6 percent) for 3,399 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while Crockett rushed for 1,062 yards and 6.9 yards per carry.

That tandem helped Missouri average a league-leading 500.5 yards per game.

Beisel, who claims to have lived a past life as a gladiator, will continue to talk this season, but whether the Tigers can improve defensively will go a long way in determining if Missouri can get back to the postseason scene following a two-year absence.

"Comparing our team right now to any team in the past two years, it's not even close," Beisel said. "We're definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with. We're going to come out and dominate this year.

"We're going to win a lot of games."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.