COLUMBIA — Chase Daniel will direct Missouri’s offense against Arkansas in Tuesday’s Cotton Bowl. But the Tigers also expect the Texan native to fulfill another role this week.
Many of his teammates are curious about Southlake, Texas, the Dallas suburb where Daniel’s family lives, and Southlake Carroll, the high school where he was a state champion and national player of the year.
“We’ve already got a ton of people (on the team) who want to come to Southlake and see where I live and see Southlake Carroll — that’s the main thing,” he said after practice Thursday. “I’ll have my dad’s (GMC) Denali down there, so I’ll definitely dump in about nine guys at a time and go take them over there.”
Daniel is less familiar with the Cotton Bowl. Although he grew up watching the game, it wasn’t until last year — three days after Missouri fell to Oregon State in the Sun Bowl — when he first attended the game.
Now Daniel and the Tigers will start preparing for their first Cotton Bowl since 1946. Their opening practice is Thursday at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys’ home. The quarterback’s teammates and coaches joined him in Dallas on Wednesday.
Daniel got to spend Christmas at home after practice wrapped up Saturday in Columbia. Players who live more than four hours away from Columbia did not have to report back. They met the Tigers in Dallas, while fans sent off the rest of team Wednesday morning from Columbia.
Some players traveled through enemy lines to get home for the holidays. “I go through Arkansas, which might not be a good idea,” joked linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who had a 13-hour drive back to Jasper, his hometown in East Texas.
Arkansas running back Darren McFadden will try to bust through Weatherspoon and the Tigers defense Tuesday. Both offenses, each featuring a Heisman Trophy finalist, have the potential to put up dozens of points on New Year’s Day. With plenty of time to tinker with their game plans, both teams will probably roll out some new trick plays, coach Gary Pinkel said.
Since teams have several more weeks to prepare in December, Pinkel said he thinks more points are scored in bowl games. “I don’t have any numbers, but I would suggest it would lean that way,” Pinkel said.
While the Tigers will devote much attention to McFadden, he is not the most talented athlete they will focus on this week. LeBron James will be the star when both the Tigers and Razorbacks attend the Cleveland Cavaliers-Dallas Mavericks basketball game Thursday night.
Pinkel did not hesitate to compare himself to the star. “He’s an Akron guy, man. Guess where all great athletes come from — Akron, Ohio. Pinkel. James,” Pinkel joked last week, referring to the city where he and James were both born.
Like Pinkel’s quarterback, James grabbed attention in high school. “My brother told me about him when he was a ninth grader. He kept calling me about this kid, ‘I saw this guy named LeBron James,’” Pinkel said.