Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 4/4/12
COLUMBIA, Mo. They deny there is a different approach in this spring unlike any other. Pads still crack, players still trade verbal barbs and coaches still shout orders like "10-3 offense!" near an end zone during drills. Football remains constant, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and his players say, and the future will come in time. But this year, the future includes change. It's a theme that is almost never discussed but widely understood among those wearing black and gold: Their work this spring is about building toward a new normal. There are more than five months left until defending SEC East champion Georgia arrives at Memorial Stadium to baptize the Tigers into The Country's Greatest Conference. The confetti has tumbled, the Big 12 Conference exit fees have been figured (a stiff 12.41 million) and soon Missouri will become a little more Missourah. Soon, the SEC move will become real. "It's not too different," senior running back Kendial Lawrence said. "We're still going to be playing football that's the main thing. Then again, we're moving to a new conference and building this legacy. It puts you to work harder to get better every day at any position that you're playing." There will be time for more work, of course. Watching a Missouri spring practice is like observing the first brushstroke on a blank canvas it's loose, it's sloppy, it's boring. But it leaves room for imagination and possibility. The Tigers leave plenty to wonder about this spring. The biggest question is how, exactly, they will fare against some of the Southern heavyweights next fall. They finished 8-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12 last season with then-sophomore quarterback James Franklin behind center as a starter for the first time. It was only the second season in five years they failed to win at least 10 games. Can Missouri continue to build? Sure, it will be hard against stiff competition within a league that has produced the last six BCS champions. But then again, there are chances for the Tigers to finish among the top three in the weaker SEC East. The schedule presents opportunity. Beyond Georgia (likely loss), Missouri's first SEC season includes home games against Kentucky (winnable), Vanderbilt (winnable) and defending national champion Alabama (likely loss). Meanwhile, the Tigers travel to South Carolina (likely loss), Florida (tossup), Tennessee (winnable) and Texas A&M (tossup). Yes, Pinkel's program will find life in its new home to be more unforgiving than its Big 12 existence. Over the last five years, the Tigers became one of the league's stalwarts north of Oklahoma. Now, they must prove themselves all over again. "You don't waste a play," Pinkel said of his approach to the spring. "You don't waste a period. Slowly, you become a good football player. That's spring football. I think, overall, we're doing some pretty good things." This is an exciting time in mid-Missouri. The Tigers' exit from the Big 12 was viewed as a fresh beginning. It was viewed as an escape from Texas' influence and power. It was viewed as a chance to be part of something secure and strong outside Burnt Orange's shadow. There also is momentum involved with the move. The signing of blue-chip wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in February was a coup, so much so that Pinkel said in the hours after it became official, "The Mizzou stock market went up a little bit today." Now, there is talk of expanding Memorial Stadium. Missouri has always somewhat underachieved, but there is a sense that the program will be more relevant under Commissioner Mike Slive's care. But there is risk involved in the new life too. Pinkel has made marked progress since arriving before the 2001 season. He has earned seven consecutive bowl berths and eight in the past nine years. He brought the Tigers within one half of the national championship game in 2007. He has made the program his own. But Missouri can plateau if it struggles to adapt. Traditional SEC East powers Florida and Tennessee are down, but history suggests they won't be forever. How will the Tigers respond? Yes, there will be many challenges in the coming years. But this spring is about first glimpses. "We're going to the SEC we're not trying to make it anything different," junior wide receiver Marcus Lucas said. "We're going through our normal routine, same practice schedule. We know it has always been about Mizzou and what we can control. We're taking it practice by practice and going with it. It's instilled in our minds, This is Missouri. We're going to do what Mizzou does.' No matter who we're playing or what conference we're in, we're going to keep it consistent and play Mizzou's style." That style will be tested in a new environment. Missouri's SEC opener is still months away, but the work toward a new normal has already begun.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Charges dropped against Lucky Whitehead, cops admit they got wrong guy

LeBron James slams report that he wants to fight Kyrie Irving

Report: Rangers would trade Yu Darvish for ‘right deal’

Report: Thunder interested in trading for Carmelo Anthony

Mayweather says he will stand ‘toe to toe’ with McGregor

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Raiders to limit Marshawn Lynch's workload in 2017?

Kobe Bryant responds to if he is influencing Kyrie Irving

Andy Reid chastises Tamba Hali for social media outburst

Every 2009-2016 NBA MVP will now play for Warriors or Cavaliers

Mike Tyson weighs in on Conor McGregor’s chances of beating Floyd Mayweather

Report: Robert Griffin III scheduled to work out with Chargers

Box Score 7/25: The pressure of the trade deadline is here

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

Best of Yardbarker: General managers take the spotlight

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

The unexpected rise of the Connecticut Sun

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

Kicking It: USMNT struggles to find consistency in Gold Cup as World Cup qualifying nears

Three Up, Three Down: The Dodgers are a complete juggernaut right now

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker