“The old Danario’s back.”

"The old Danario" torched Nebraska for 56 yards and a touchdown in 2007. (AP photo)

"The old Danario" torched Nebraska for 56 yards and a touchdown in 2007. (AP photo)

The 2009 Missouri Tigers football team resembles the 2008 Missouri Tigers football team about as much as Boise State’s turf resembles natural grass.  Sure there are some similarities, but the bottom line is, it’s different.

Last year, everyone knew what to expect heading into the Illinois game.  We knew Chase Daniel would be solid at quarterback.  We knew Chase Coffman was one of the best tight ends in the country.  We knew Jeremy Maclin was going to be an All-American candidate at wide receiver.

Those areas are all thought to be question marks this year.  However, if you ask members of the current Tigers team, they’ll tell you they once again have an All-American at wide receiver.  That receiver is Danario Alexander.

“The old Danario’s back,” coach Gary Pinkel said.

If you’re an Illinois supporter that is not what you want to hear.

The old Danario is the man who caught nine passes for 82 yards against the Illini in 2007 before suffering a wrist injury.  The old Danario is the man who was originally listed ahead of Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart.  The old Danario is the man who hauled in a 74-yard touchdown in the Sun Bowl as a true freshman.  The old Danario is a man defenses do not want to face this season.

Just ask Missouri defensive tackle Jaron Baston.  He agrees with coach Pinkel that Alexander is on the verge of a great season.

“Oh man that guy is amazing on the field,” Baston said when asked about Alexander.  “He’s athletic.  I’ve never seen in-person an athlete that can do what he can do as far as agility, jumping.”  No, Baston did not just have his eyes closed for the Maclin era.  He is just that serious about Alexander’s resurgence.

“We had an All-American man, but as far as an overall receiver, [Alexander] is special,” Baston continued.  “I think that he has the size, the speed, athleticism to be just as good or even better than some of those All-American guys we’ve had.”

Photo from stltoday.com

Photo from stltoday.com

The question for Alexander has never been his talent.  It’s been his health.  But now 100 percent healthy for the first time since 2007, Alexander is anxious to hit the field on Saturday.

“I’m just looking forward to playing,” Alexander said.

So while people will continue to discuss the differences in this year’s Missouri team from last year’s, those differences are not always a negative.  The Tigers are hoping one difference will include a healthy Alexander for an entire season.

If that happens, the so-called drop off in talent at wide receiver might not be as extreme as everyone expects.  Tiger fans, we only have a few more hours before we find out.

-MG

Mizzou expresses confidence at media day

Gary Pinkel addresses the media.

Gary Pinkel addresses the media.

If the 2009 Missouri Tigers were to listen to national media, there is no reason for them to even play Illinois this year.  After all, Mizzou has so many question marks that hardly anyone outside of Columbia even expects them to compete with Juice Williams and the Illini.  But inside the Mizzou Athletic Complex on Monday, the Tigers were expressing no shortage of confidence.

After gashing the Illinois defense for 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns last year, junior running back Derrick Washington thinks Missouri’s critics are in for a big surprise this time around.

“We lost a lot of talent.  I can’t argue with that.  A lot of these young guys are going to step up and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Derrick Washington is hoping for another big day against Illinois (Photo by Joshua Bickel, Columbia Missourian).

Derrick Washington is hoping for another big day against Illinois (Photo by Joshua Bickel, Columbia Missourian).

Members of the Tigers defense are also confident heading into Saturday, despite giving up 42 points and 532 yards of total offense to the Illini a year ago.

“I don’t see any weak links in our defense as far as confidence-wise,” senior defensive end Brian Coulter said.  “Everybody’s ready to go out there.”

Washington was willing to go even further than saying the defense is confident, “Our defense is stacked,” Washington said.

But while the players may be feeling positive heading into Saturday’s game, Head Coach Gary Pinkel is mindful that the Tigers still have their work cut out for them.

“They’re a great team,” Pinkel said when talking about Illinois.  “They have a much more experienced team than we have.  It will be a very difficult task.”

Although Pinkel will concede that Illinois is more experienced, he is downplaying the fact that experience will be a much of a factor for his quarterback, Blaine Gabbert.

“He may have less experience, but no one cares,” Pinkel said.  He reiterated that fact again when asked about that “E” word saying, “Any youth or lack of experience to me is absolutely insignificant.”

Pinkel feels Gabbert is ready, but more importantly Gabbert feels he is ready.

Blaine Gabber (11) feels he is ready to lead this Missouri team. (Photo courtesy of stltoday.com)

Blaine Gabbert (11) feels he is ready to lead this Missouri team. (Photo courtesy of stltoday.com)

“The talent is there (for us) and the playmaking ability is there, Gabbert said.  “It’s a big game. It’s a rivalry game.  Why not start big?”

Speaking of big, one of Gabbert’s biggest receiving targets backed up what Gabbert said.  When asked if he was ready for Saturday, Danario Alexander replied:

“We’re ready to play them.  I’m just looking forward to playing them Saturday.”

So while the critics continue to pick against the Tigers, Missouri is embracing the role of underdog this year.  Among the team’s biggest critics: ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who in a recent article on espn.com ranked Mizzou as the number one team on the way down in 2009.  But with such low expectations, the Tigers feel they have nowhere to go but up this season.

As Sean Weatherspoon put it, “We control our own destiny.  What everybody is saying now doesn’t mean anything.  If we go out each and every week and put up, people will be talking about the Missouri Tigers again.”

-MG

Some wisdom from Mizzou’s John Anderson

The following entry was written by ESPN anchor and MU alumnus John Anderson.  This was posted on his ESPN blog on August 27th, 2008.  With the start of college football this week, I thought it would be fitting to pass along to our readers.

“With the college football season kicking off this week here’s my…

*10 point college refresher course.*

Big, quiet place with all the books is the library.  Big, loud place with all the people is the football stadium.

The football stadium.

The football stadium.

The library. (Picture from doit.missouri.edu)

The library. (Picture from doit.missouri.edu)

Eating in the cafeteria is risking illness. Eating in the parking lot is tailgating.

Studying Sunday thru Thursday makes you smarter. Campus parties on Fridays and games on Saturdays make you more well rounded.

Cuddly looking thing with giant mascot head holding a child is the mascot.  Cuddly looking thing with giant mascot head holding #2 pencil is Lee Corso.

A game program is a course syllabus with advertising and a depth chart.

Academic departments have benefactors. Athletics departments have donors.

The hardest class to skip is the first one. The easiest class is generally offered by the geology department.

Distinguished looking 40 year old riding a bicycle is professor. Distinguished looking 40 year old driving the Cadillac Escalade is the head coach.

Co-eds will go out with you after a win if you are wearing school colors. Co-eds will not go out with you after a win if you are painted school colors.

While certainly showing their school spirit, these guys won't be getting the girls according to Anderson. (Photo from mizzouwire.missouri.edu)

While certainly showing their school spirit, these guys won't be getting the girls according to Anderson. (Photo from mizzouwire.missouri.edu)

When looking for co-eds transfer to Ole Miss.

You are *now* ready for class & kickoff.”

– To see this original article, visit Anderson’s blog at:

http://sportsnation.espn.go.com/fans/ESPN_JohnAnderson/blog

-MG

Blaine Dalton dismissed from team

Blaine Dalton

Blaine Dalton

Missouri freshman quarterback Blaine Dalton, 18, has officially been dismissed from the football team the University announced Monday.

In a statement released by the University, the official reason is for, “a violation of team conduct policies.”

According to Gabe DeArmond of powermizzou.com, Dalton was arrested at 1:26 a.m. Friday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.  According to Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Dalton failed a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer at 1:16 a.m. on Missouri’s campus.

This is not the first time the quarterback has been in trouble with the law.  On April 30th Dalton was arrested and later pleaded guilty to a charge of a minor in possession of a can of beer and two misdemeanor traffic violations.  Police also found prescription painkillers in his car, but those charges were dropped.  (To see the article on Dalton’s first arrest click here: https://missouricolumns.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/dalton-arrested/ )

Dalton, a former standout at Blue Springs South High School was competing to be the Tigers second string quarterback behind sophomore Blaine Gabbert.  In yesterday’s scrimmage however, he was outplayed by other reserve quarterbacks Jimmy Costello and Ashton Glaser.

The University and the athletic department will have no further comment on Dalton’s dismissal.

-MG

Scrimmage wrap-up

Thursday afternoon’s scrimmage concluded training camp for the 2009 Missouri Tigers.

Mizzou football’s training camp officially ended today as the Tigers played in their final scrimmage of the summer.  With camp now over, the Tigers will have Friday off before turning all of their attention toward game-planning for Illinois.  If you ask senior captain Sean Weatherspoon, however, he would confess that his mind has been focused on the opener in St. Louis for months.

“Coach may say that we don’t officially put 100-percent of our attention toward Illinois until this weekend, but trust me, I’ve been thinking about the Illini every time I step onto the field,” Weatherspoon said.  “Whenever I stare across the line of scrimmage, all I can see is orange.”

Sean Weatherspoon already has the Illinois game on his mind.

Sean Weatherspoon already has the Illinois game on his mind.

Spoon certainly looked like he was visualizing an orange-clad offense during Thursday’s scrimmage as he delivered many punishing hits with aid from his recently upgraded physique.  Spoon wasn’t the only Tiger that shined on defense, however.  Rather, the entire defensive unit coalesced brilliantly and outplayed the offense throughout the entire day.  With strong pressure up front, the defense was able to force the Missouri quarterbacks out of the pocket and into difficult throws, much to the delight of a hungry secondary.

“The [defensive line] is a great asset to our team,” sophomore safety Kenji Jackson said.  “They put pressure on the quarterback so they rush throws so we DB’s can do our job and pick him off and make big hits.”

As a result, two passes were intercepted, one by Hardy Ricks and the other by freshman Andrew Wilson.  Much of the quarterback pressure should be credited to Jacquies Smith, who had an excellent day in picking up a sack and recording multiple tackles for a loss.

Blaine Gabbert looked solid once again in the scrimmage and has proven this off-season that he has the ability to be an elite quarterback.  Even though there was a heavy pass rush on Gabbert throughout the day, he demonstrated that he has the ability to make quick decisions and use his feet when necessary.  Gabbert showed off his 4.5 speed with a number of scurries around the hashes.  He rushed 5 times for 15 yards in the scrimmage.  While he never broke a tremendously long run, he did an excellent job of evading defenders in the backfield and gaining enough yards to pick up first downs.

“Running with the ball is not something that I’m going to force too often,” Gabbert said. “But, whenever I find seams and do not see exactly what I want in coverage, then I am definitely going to try to pick up some yards on the ground.”

Mizzou’s receivers are talented and speedy enough to get open in just about any coverage, but if they aren’t open, Gabbert running should be a present danger on offense.

Missouri certainly has some work to do in preparation for Illinois, but overall, the mood after the scrimmage was positive.

“Overall, really good things out there,” Gary Pinkel said.

Notes

  • When asked which young player impressed him most this off-season, senior wide receiver Danario Alexander said that De’Vion Moore really played well.  Moore, who is the No.2 running back behind Derrick Washington, won the most improved offensive player award in the spring and will have a major role in both the air and ground attack this season.
  • Blaine Dalton, who has been in the running to be the No. 2 quarterback, played terribly in the final scrimmage.  Dalton looked flustered in each of his series and finished 5-15 for 18 yards with an interception.  Jimmy Costello seems to have solidified himself as Blaine Gabbert’s backup.

    Linebacker Will Ebner was shaken up during the scrimmage.

    Linebacker Will Ebner was shaken up during the scrimmage.

  • RS Freshman defensive end Aldon Smith, who was mentioned as being “unblockable” this spring, took around five reps as a defensive tackle during the scrimmage.  This could be a sign that the Tiger coaching staff is experimenting with innovative ways to get Smith on the field as much as possible, especially on passing downs.  Opposing offenses should be concerned if the Tigers are finding alternative methods to bolster their already stout defensive line.
  • The Missouri punting controversy seemed to have cleared up a little during the scrimmage.  Sophomore Matt Grabner outperformed senior Jake Harry during the practice as each one took reps kicking the football during punting situations.  While most of Harry’s punts were low and spun awkwardly, Grabner’s boots consistently hit the roof inside Dan Divine Pavilion.
  • True freshman receivers T.J. Moe and L’Damian Washington were on the field quite a bit throughout the day.  Still no word on whether they will see the field this season.  I’d put money on the fact that Moe sees time this year.
  • Sophomore tackle Dan Hoch was held out of the scrimmage while still nursing his knee injury.  However, he moved well while working one-on-one with a coach on the sideline.
  • Linebacker Will Ebner was temporarily shaken up during the scrimmage, but has suffered no major injury.

-PF

Pinkel and co. wrap up training camp

The players weren't the only ones practicing Thursday.  Gary Pinkel warmed up for the season by discussing a play with the scrimmage's officials.

The players weren't the only ones practicing Thursday. Gary Pinkel warmed up for the season by discussing a play with the scrimmage's officials.

“We have to get better and we have to get better fast.  We have seven days to fix things.”

Coach Gary Pinkel

The Columns will have a full report from Thursday’s scrimmage up shortly.

-MG

And the scoreboard is up… and it’s good UPDATED 9/4

Notice the addition of the new speakers at the top.

Notice the addition of the new speakers at the top.

DSC01281DSC01288DSC01279

I know this doesn't include the new board, but I just thought it was a cool picture of the stadium.  Looking forward to packing that place in a week.

I know this doesn't include the new board, but I just thought it was a cool picture of the stadium. Looking forward to packing that place in a week.

Pictures really don't do it justice, the thing looks even larger in person.

Pictures really don’t do it justice, the thing looks even larger in person.

Below are pictures I took of the new scoreboard currently being installed at Faurot Field.  These were taken August 20th.  Since then, the screen panels have all been installed.

Some quick facts about the new scoreboard:

Cost: $3.8 million

Size: 30 feet high, 80 feet wide (roughly 3 1/2 times larger than the previous one)

Developer: Daktronics

Technology: HD-X screen with state-of-the-art LED displays

Previous Scoreboard: Diamond Vision scoreboard constructed prior to the 1997 season.  MU cited antiquated technology, customer complaints, and rising maintenance costs as the reason for replacing the board.

Misc: A new sound system will also be installed at Faurot Field

Part of a $5 million project between MU and Daktronics that will include new scoreboards at MU’s baseball and soccer stadiums.

Expected to be finished before MU’s home opener vs. Bowling Green (9/12/09)

DSC01233

Here's the view you see as you approach the stadium from on campus.  Obviously this scoreboard stands out a little more than the old one.

Here's the view you see as you approach the stadium from on campus. Obviously this scoreboard stands out a little more than the old one.

DSC01214DSC01220DSC01221DSC01232-MG