Defense looks good in annual spring game

 

The first team defense, which sported the gold jerseys, had more to celebrate than the black squad.  (Photo courtesy Nick King/Columbia Tribune)

The first team defense, which sported the gold jerseys, had more to celebrate than the black squad. (Photo courtesy Nick King/Columbia Tribune)

Thoughts on Saturday’s Black and Gold game

Offense:

Blaine Gabbert:

  Overall, not a very impressive showing from the offense on Saturday.  There was only one touchdown scored in the entire game and that came on a one yard run set up by a Blaine Dalton fumble.  Blaine Gabbert is built like an NFL quarterback but he did not play like one on Saturday.  He had a couple of nice short throws, but perhaps garnered the most wows from the crowd on a back-pedaling 55 yard incompletion.  I don’t think Chase Daniel could throw the ball 55 yards period.  The fact that Gabbert can do it on the move is impressive, however it’s pointless if the pass falls incomplete.  Gabbert’s most discouraging play of the day came early in the game when he was intercepted by Kip Edwards.  Gabbert stared down his receiver on an out route and Edwards easily stepped in front of it.  I think Mizzou fans may soon realize that while Gabbert has potential, they may have taken Chase Daniel for granted.

   “When the pick happened…you can’t really do anything about that,” Gabbert said after the game.  “I’ve just got to bring the ball downhill a little more.  Overall, we did fine.”

  I’d say it’s clear Gabbert trusts his arm, which when you’re as inexperienced as he is, can be good and bad sometimes.  He also had a few impressive runs, including about a 25 yarder down the sideline. He seems to be able to move really well given his size.  On the day, Gabbert’s stat line read: 9-17 passing for 93 yards and one interception.

Other Offensive Notes

  The most impressive player on the day offensively, was Jerrell Jackson.  Working in a receiving corps that was missing Danario Alexander and Jared Perry, Jackson had several nice catches and was even given the ball on a Maclin-esque running play.  Afterward, Jackson had no shortage of confidence, despite the offense’s poor showing.

  “That was one of our down days on offense, but we’re going to scorch every defense we play,” Jackson said.

Elsewhere… Derrick Washington looked good in limited playing time…  De’Vion Moore looked as quick as ever… Rolandis Woodland, who played with the second team, had several drops… Hard to tell how well the O-line and D-line were in a scrimmage that doesn’t allow quarterback contact, but the offensive line seemed to be holding its own… Jimmy Costello, who Josh Tatum tells me is suffering from shoulder pain, was not impressive leading the second team offense.  The second team offense did not record a single first down against the starting D.  Costello also seemed to have a knack at leading his receivers into big hits, as several times his intended receivers were lit up by an aggressive Mizzou secondary.

 

It won't be exactly easy for Missouri to replace playmakers such as Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman

It won't be an easy task for Missouri to replace playmakers such as Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman

Defense:

   Logic says that there is little reason to be optimistic about this year’s defensive unit.  Last year the Missouri defense gave upon only two fewer points to Oklahoma than our basketball team did (62 vs. 64 respectively), and they lose a lot of the unit’s best players from a year ago.  However, on Saturday the defense was very impressive.  They looked aggressive, fast, and physical.  Call me optimistic, but I am buying into the hype these young guys have quietly been receiving.  From Kip Edwards to Jerrell Harrison to Kenji Jackson, I think there is reason to believe the secondary will be improved.  (Not hard to do I guess).  I understand that replacing William Moore will be difficult, but in general, the 2009 defense will have more speed and athleticism than last year’s unit.

   Tatum told me earlier today that head coach Gary Pinkel has been telling the team that they are the hardest working and fastest team he has ever coached. – Always good to have team speed.

The most impressive player on defense goes to Kenji Jackson.  The sophomore safety was all over the field making hits.  Several times he laid out receivers drawing “oohs,” from the crowd.

  As for the D-line, like I said it’s hard to tell when they’re not allowed to hit the quarterback, but physically Brian Coulter, Jacquies Smith, and Aldon Smith appeared noticeably bigger than a year ago.  Call me an optimist, but I think the defense might be pretty good this year.

 

Kenji Jackson (13), who recorded two interceptions as a true freshman, made some huge hits on Saturday.

Kenji Jackson (13), who recorded two interceptions as a true freshman a year ago, made some huge hits on Saturday.

 Special Teams:

   This is an area where Mizzou fans are going to soon realize just how great Jeff Wolfert really was.  Everyone knows Wolfert has the title of being the most accurate kicker in Division One football history, but I think few really realized what a feat that was.  Tanner Mills, Missouri’s number one kicker at the moment, struggled.  He connected on his first field goal but missed two others.  He seemed to be striking the ball well, but when the ball doesn’t go through the two yellow posts it doesn’t really matter how well you strike it.

   As for punter Jake Harry, he was also had a pretty dismal showing.  One of his four punts traveled a total of 19 yards and he had another that went 27.  That is unacceptable. 

  In the return game, Missouri looked to be trying several options to replace Maclin.  Edwards, Jackson, and Munir Prince all saw time returning punts, but special teams is a non-contact activity in the spring game as well.  The fastest of those three is Prince, who was supposedly Notre Dame’s fastest player when he was there.  However, he struggled to field punts and Tatum told me Prince routinely struggles catching the ball.  With a 40 time sub 4.5, Edwards seems to be a good choice, however he did not look nearly that fast on his interception return.

Other Thoughts:

   Overall, the play on the field seemed to match the weather outside – sloppy… There was a nice ceremony for the 2008 seniors, Maclin, and Aaron O’Neal’s father, Lonnie at halftime…  I would say that the 2009 Missouri football team will be worse than last year on offense, better on defense, and worse on special teams.  However, with the young talent and speed that this team has, I think they will still compete for the Big 12 North title.

   They remind me a lot of this past year’s basketball team.  They are young, relatively unknown, but have the potential to do big things if everything were to unfold in the best-case scenario.

-MG

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