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Missouri 2013 season preview

The Tigers' introduction into the SEC wasn't nearly as welcoming as Texas A&M's, as Gary Pinkel's team finished 5-7 (2-6 SEC). Even its conference wins over Tennessee and Kentucky, which were a combined 1-15 in league play, weren't exactly inspiring. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense Missouri likes to employ didn't ever really find a groove, largely due to an injury-hampered season for standout quarterback James Franklin and a banged-up offensive line.

This year, Missouri looks to rebound with a healthy offense and a defense that will have enough returning experience to hold up against at least the bottom half of the league. The Tigers' senior class is light on NFL prospects, but several younger players have pro potential. Mizzou's recent draft history has been short on numbers but high on quality. Sheldon Richardson (a first-round pick by the New York Jets) and Zaviar Gooden (a third-round pick by the Tennessee Titans) were its only draft picks in April. From 2009-2012, the Tigers had only 11 players drafted, but five were first-rounders and eight went in the top three rounds.

Top senior prospects

QB James Franklin: The size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and athleticism to play in the NFL are there, but Franklin's arm isn't reliable enough for an NFL projection. His injury history will be scrutinized as well. Expect late-round or undrafted-free-agent grades for Franklin, even with a strong senior year.

DB E.J. Gaines: Probably a mid-round pick, Gaines (5-10, 195) was arguably Missouri's most productive defender other than Richardson last season. Made 74 tackles with 11 pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, and he forced or recovered four fumbles. The cornerback prospect was first-team All-Big 12 in 2011.

WR Marcus Lucas: Lucas led Missouri with 46 catches and 509 receiving yards last year. At 6-5, 220 pounds, he has more than enough length to play at the next level. The question with Lucas will be speed and ability to separate from defenders.

Top underclassmen

OL Evan Boehm: After starting 12 games as a freshman guard last year and likely taking over center duties as a sophomore this fall, Boehm belongs on any sophomore watch list. He has the size (6-3, 315) to play in the NFL. How he develops over the next two years will determine if he has the talent.

DE Kony Ealy: A potential early draft entry, this fourth-year junior will try to fill Richardson's shoes as Missouri's dominant presence up front. Along with 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year, he batted down seven passes at the line of scrimmage with his 6-5, 275-pound frame. A big year could compel Ealy to come out for the draft in 2014, but he would benefit from adding some weight and returning for his senior year.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham: For a player who was arguably the top high school recruit in the country when he signed with Missouri in 2012, a lot was expected as a freshman from Green-Beckham. And while his development was a bit slow and injuries elsewhere in the offense conspired to limit his production, he still managed 28 catches and a team-high five receiving touchdowns. Green-Beckham dominated the Missouri secondary in the spring and could be a prized early entry in the 2015 draft.

Check out the top 10 all-time players from Missouri.

Three must-see games of 2013

Oct. 26 vs. South Carolina: The nation's top pass rusher, Jadeveon Clowney, takes aim at one of the league's more mobile passers in James Franklin. With a little defense, the Tigers could keep this one close.

Nov. 23 at Ole Miss: Points, anyone? Two of the league's fastest-paced offenses clash in hurry-up, no-huddle style. Don't blink -- you might miss a touchdown.

Nov. 30 vs. Texas A&M: In a battle of the league's two newcomers, Missouri gets a chance for a home upset and to avenge a 59-29 trouncing at the hands of the Aggies last season.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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