DE Brian Smith

2003 Statistics

Coach: Gary Pinkel
17-19, 3 years
2003 Record: 8-5
Illinois WON 22-15
at Ball State WON 35-7
at Kansas LOST 14-35
at Oklahoma LOST 13-34
at Colorado LOST 16-21
at Kansas State LOST 14-24
Arkansas LOST 14-27

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

In his third season, Pinkel produced Mizzu's first winning record and bowl trip since 1998. This program is on the rise, and Pinkel is building it on the same foundations that enabled him to succeed at Toledo -- organization, discipline, player development, balanced offense and an attacking defense.

For years, there's been talk of Missouri ditching the Big 12 for the Big Ten. If Pinkel (who grew up in Ohio) continues winning, that possibility becomes a lot more realistic. But, realistically, this program still has a lot of growing to do before it can threaten Texas and Oklahoma's collective Big 12 dominance. They have the talent to beat either, but must work on fundamentals and character before this can happen.

Still, the door appears wide open for it to take a step forward this fall. A kind early schedule will give them a chance to build momentum and build cohesion in the passing game and, more importantly, on the O-line. Mizzu should be 5-0 heading into the Oct. 16 road date at Texas. Don't expect an upset there, but with a presumed down year in the West Division, a rematch against the Longhorns in the conference title game is a strong possibility. A berth there will have to come through Kansas State, which travels to Columbia. The four-game buzz-saw of their schedule that comes after Texas will define their campaign this time.

A Heisman run by Smith, a top-25 finish, and a division title are all ambitious goals, yet the talent that exists could easily fall together for more than most expect. But the best indication of a rising program is consistency, and that should be the Tiger's focus - that quality would beget the above-listed results.

Projected 2004 record: 7-4
QB - 4.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 2.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 2.5 DB - 3
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Brad Smith, 320-194-6, 1822 yds., 11 TD

Rushing: Brad Smith, 192 att., 1310 yds., 17 TD

Receiving: Thomson Omboga, 44 rec., 403 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Brad Smith, 18 TD, 2 2pt., 112 pts.

Punting: Brock Harvey, 49 punts, 36.8 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: James Kinney, 141 tot., 82 solo, 6 TFL

Sacks: Brian Smith, 8 sacks

Interceptions: Zach Ville, 1 for 39 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Tyrone Roberson, 12 ret., 18.0 avg.

Punt Returns: Josh Hibbets, 1 ret., 26 yds., 1 TD


WR Thomas Omboga
OFFENSE: Darius Outlaw-WR, Rob Droege-OT, A.J. Ricker-C, Cliff Young-OG, Steven Sanchez-OT, J.D. McCoy-TE, Zack Abron-TB, Michael Matheny-K
DEFENSE: Russ Bell-DT, Brandon Barnes-LB, Terrence Curry-CB, Michael Harden-CB

It all starts with junior Brad Smith, who is of the best in the nation at QB. Elusive and versatile, Smith is best known as a runner (1,310 yards, 17 TDs last fall). But his arm is underrated (completed 60.6%, with an INT rate of only 2%), and coach Gary Pinkel wants him to display more of that passing gift this fall. With an inexperienced offensive line, Smith could find it tougher to run. But, regardless, in Smith this team has a Mike Vick-type athlete who can change a game by himself, and he should only be better this fall.

Running Back
Despite the graduation of the school's all-time leading rusher Zack Abron, this position will continue to be productive with Damien Nash. Some fans thought Nash, a finesse juco-transfer (third-rated juco RB), was better than the pulverizing Abron anyway. He's certainly quicker (10.3 seconds in the 100 meters) and more slippery, and he's a potential play-maker in the passing game - oh, and he is well-sized. Nash and Smith make for an exciting running duo that will stretch out defenses and, in turn, open up room for Smith to throw.

Wide Receiver
Much of the reason for the slide in the passing game was Smith's thin stable of receivers. Most of that group is back. Leading receiver Thomson Omboga is a nice possession guy, but shouldn't be expected to carry the air attack. Sean Coffey, who returns at the 'Z,' is a decent mid-range receiver. But there's no proven deep threat here. Soph Brad Ekwerekwu, the new starter at the 'H' spot, has the 4.3 speed to fill that role. Redshirt freshman Greg Bracey has been clocked in the 4.2s. The Tigers, though, had a season-longest reception of only 48-yards in '03, and we know if coaches send guys even further than that, Smith can get it there, so…

Tight End
Smith likes to throw to his tight ends, and senior Victor Sesay is a big target. He only started twice last fall, but was still second on the team with three receiving TDs and sixth with 15 grabs. Clint Matthews, another senior, will get plenty of time but is used primarily to open holes. If they throw to the TE so much, then LBs and safeties are occupied, and that means deeper stuff should work.

Offensive Line
This unit is an even bigger area of concern than the receiving corps, with 45 of last year's 65 total starts gone. Weakside guard Tony Palmer is the most experienced returnee and will be the leader up front. He'll be joined on by returnee Scott Paffrath, who moves from strongside to weakside tackle, and veteran guard Joe Gianino has been switched to center. But for all the concern, there's plenty of young talent here with soph Mike Cook and two redshirt freshmen. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen is also the line coach, and two years ago, he faced a similar situation. He responded by putting together a surprisingly strong group that keyed Smith's big freshman year. This unit will be better than people think, but maybe not quite on par with the '03 unit's 5.6 yards per carry average and 19 sacks allowed.

Pinkel's offensive philosophy is balance, but he got away from that last year as Mizzu ran 502 times and passed 344, with the average pass catch being for only 9.6 yards. The only balance we saw was an offense ranked first in the Big 12 in rushing and 11th in passing. With talented runners like Smith and Nash and an unproven receiving corps, it's easy to see how that happened. Expect more equilibrium this time, though, with so much inexperience up front. That can only be good for a team that can't afford to lose Smith to an injury by letting him run too much. And if his receivers step up and manage to open up the field a little, there will be less defenders in his path. The offense has to become more "ball control" - how could this team with such a great, leaned-upon running game in Smith not win the time-of-possession battle? Scoring too efficiently can be a downfall when the team has a marginal defense that the opposing offense can rule through ball control, and Mizzu fell pray to such in their last campaign.


QB Brad Smith


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Brad Smith-Jr (6-2, 207) Brandon Coleman-So (6-4, 210)
TB Damien Nash-Jr (5-11, 219) Marcus Woods-Fr (5-8, 180)
WR Brad Ekwerekwu-So (6-3, 204) Arnold Britt-Jr (6-2, 186)
WR Thomson Omboga-Sr (6-2, 192) Greg Bracey-Fr (6-3, 194)
WR Sean Coffey-Jr (6-5, 222) Jason Ray-Fr (6-2, 206)
TE Clint Matthews-Sr (6-3, 237) Victor Sesay-Sr (6-6, 263)
OT Scott Paffrath-Sr (6-5, 292) Tyler Luellen-Fr (6-7, 280)
OG Tony Palmer-Jr (6-2, 317) Howard Brissette-Sr (6-4, 304)
C Joe Gianino-Sr (6-3, 305) Adam Spieker-Fr (6-3, 301)
OG Mike Cook-So (6-2, 325) Monte Wyrick-Fr (6-4, 315)
OT Tony Clinker-Sr (6-4, 301) Joel Clinger-So (6-6, 311)
K Alex Pettersen-Fr (6-4, 206) Adam Crossett-Fr (6-0, 205)


Defensive Line
Almost the entire unit returns intact. There are no superstars here, but plenty of depth and athleticism. The line was young last year, and Pinkel tried several combinations. The result is a group of interchangeable parts that will wear on opposing lines and is experienced enough to improve the team's standing in run defense (seventh in the Big 12) and sacks (eighth). Speedy DE Brian Smith led the team in sacks as a redshirt freshman, but true freshman Xzavie Jackson stole many of his reps, an indication now of this unit's promising depth.

Second-team all-Big 12 pick James Kinney is the focal point of the defense. He's a fast, physical run-stopper who can also stop receivers in the short-passing game. Pinkel has moved in several talented guys to plug the holes. Dedrick Harrington, the starter at rover last fall, is a nice fit. He's big, athletic and the hardest hitter on the squad. Former Michigan State RB David Richard also joins the unit, giving the group another athlete. A better group up front means these guys will be freed up, and with the collective athleticism here don't expect many opponents to have success running or throwing short.

Defensive Back
Pinkel's D is a classified as a 4-4, but it's really more of a nickel look with five DBs. There's more than enough talent here to improve on the mere nine picks compiled last fall (LB Barnes had two of those). The key will be replacing top cover corner Michael Hardin and Harrington. Former JUCO All-American Nino Williams will once again anchor from the free safety spot (strong run-stopper), and junior corner Calvin Washington has the size and speed to lock down top receivers. Physical junior Jason Simpson wreaked havoc on blitzes from the Whip position, and he'll do more of that from Harrington's rover spot. Senior corner Shirdonya Mitchell, the D's fastest player at 4.29 in the 40, is an excellent replacement for Hardin. There will be improvement here, which is needed for a unit that allowed big games to such mighty air arsenals as Texas A&M, Illinois and Middle Tennessee State.

The defense has steadily improved since Pinkel took over in '01, and with nine starters back, we figure it will improve some more this fall. The question marks are on the other side of the ball, meaning the defense will be counted on to carry the way, at least in the early going, and that could prove to be a problem. More big plays are a must here, even though they ranked 10th in TO-margin. The guys Mizzu fields all know how to bend but not break, which means keeping the play in front of them again will occur. Look for the defense to accordingly shift, stunt, and blitz their way to better and more consistent results.


LB James Kinney


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Brian Smith-So (6-3, 220) Xzavie Jackson-So (6-4, 258)
NT Atiyyah Ellison-Sr (6-4, 301) Phil Pitts-Sr (6-1, 287)
DT C.J. Mosley-Jr (6-3, 305) Fabian Bean-So (6-4, 290)
DE Zach Ville-Sr (6-2, 270) Lorenzo Williams-Fr (6-2, 259)
OLB James Kinney-Sr (6-1, 240) Derrick Ming-Jr (5-11, 235)
ILB Dedrick Harrington-So (6-3, 227) Henry Sweat-Sr (6-0, 232)
WHIP Marcus Bacon-So (6-2, 202) David Richard-So (6-2, 229)
CB Shirdonya Mitchell-Sr (6-0, 190) Marcus King-Jr (5-10, 191)
CB Calvin Washington-Jr (6-0, 196) A.J. Kincade-Jr (5-10, 181)
ROV Jason Simpson-Jr (6-0, 202) David Overstreet-So (6-0, 203)
Quincy Wade-Jr (5-9, 180)
FS Nino Williams-Sr (6-1, 202) Justin Scott-Jr (6-0, 194)
P Brock Harvey-Sr (6-1, 194) ..




Sophomore Alex Pettersen as PK means fans need not worry -- Pettersen was a highly-touted high school kicker who won the starting job two years ago as a freshmen before the staff decided to redshirt him. There won't be much pressure on him if the offense is as efficient in the red zone as last year, when 41 of 58 trips resulted in TDs and only 10 in field-goal tries. But Alex was a top-15 rated prospect, so expect much if he gets the chance.

Senior Brock Harvey is sitting out the spring due to surgery on his kicking foot. Maybe the doctors can fix whatever went wrong last fall, when Harvey's average fell from 42.5 in '02 to 36.8. Net punting for Mizzu ranked 114th out of 117 teams, making this area a key for this marginal defense.

Return Game
The speedster Mitchell averaged 24.1 yards per kick return last fall. He'll also take over on punts for graduated Marcus James, who was second in the conference in punt returns. With that 4.29 speed, Mitchell should continue to give Smith and Co. good ground to start their drives.


Suffice it to say, the Tigers have a steady running attack. RSF RB Marcus Woods galloped for 109 yards on only 11 carries in the spring game. Starter Damien Nash didn't do too shabby either, tallying 92 yards on nine carries. RSF WR Greg Bracey is the fastest player on the Tiger team at 4.29. He had four catches in the spring game and will give the Tigers a dangerous deep stretcher of the field. He'll also see touches as a return specialist. The offensive line was shaky at times, giving up a multitude of sacks this spring. This reflects a lack of athleticism, which can leave the glass looking half empty with an offense that revolves around a mobile QB. The passing game needs to get better if the Tigers wish to steal a game or two this year from their "superiors". Receivers must step up and take the pressure off of the already-targeted Brad Smith.

Defense was challenged to step up this spring and did such. Switching back to a 4-3 look, they are an extremely quick, aggressive unit who relies on their overall speed to confine opponents and keep them from getting deep. Reserve JR DE Elgin Childress, a former OLB, impressed coaches with his quickness this spring, which resulted in two sacks in the final game. He's gotten stronger and more mature since being moved to DE and will give the Tigers a quality pass-rusher who also tackles extremely well. Backup DT Fabian Bean has encountered some off-field troubles and may miss some time this fall. We feel often-talked about JUCO DL George Lane will come in and make an immediate impact, given his size and athleticism. LB David Richard (Michigan St.-transfer), saw limited action this spring, but showed that he has some work to do before he can be counted on to start. In Brock Harvey's absence, the punting suffered considerably. Matt Hoenes (who is listed as a tailback) averaged only 28 yards on six punts in the spring game. Yikes! The kicking game wasn't much better. Scott Russell, who will walk-on this fall, will join the competition at kicker.

WR Greg Bracey (rsf)
DL George Lane (jr)
OLB David Richard (so)