Tag Archives: Blaine Gabbert

Mizzou makes a statement

Missouri silences critics in blowout of Illinois

Jared Perry and the Missouri offense could not be stopped on Saturday. (AP photo)

Jared Perry and the Missouri offense could not be stopped on Saturday. (AP photo)

The Missouri football players had heard all the doubts.  They had seen all the underwhelming predictions.  They had heard about all the critics.  And in just over three hours they managed to silence all of them.  In an opening game demolition of Illinois, Missouri made its statement.  They made it loud and clear.  Missouri football is here to stay.

“All I know is we bust our butts,” said defensive tackle Jaron Baston.  “We want to prove to the world that Mizzou football is here to stay.”

We are only one game into the 2009 season, but so far, that’s exactly what the Tigers have done.  Already critics are backpedaling.  ESPN writer Tim Griffin, who was less than kind to Missouri this off-season wrote on Sunday:

“We might have written off the Tigers’ chances to contend in the North Division a little too early if Saturday’s performance is any indication.”

Monday at media day, Baston joined in on ripping another ESPN writer, Kirk Herbstreit.  Herbstreit had predicted that Missouri was the number one team on the decline this season.  Baston made a point Monday to poke fun at him.

“Somebody (talking about Herbstreit), said we were the first to go down or something like that,” Baston said with a smile on his face.  “Hey, I guess he did a good job of making that decision or whatever he said,” the starting tackle continued jokingly.

The players were expecting to beat Illinois, but not even linebacker Sean Weatherspoon could have predicted the total beat down that Mizzou handed the Illini.

“I expected it to be a better game,” Weatherspoon said.  “I thought it’d be a lot tougher.   But when you go out there and prepare the way we did, you can’t be surprised when it goes like that.”

In case you missed it, the “like that,” that ‘Spoon’ was referring to, was a complete dismantling of an Illinois team that was supposed to be the program’s most talented roster in years.

On offense, defense, and special teams, Missouri was completely dominant.  They made a veteran Illinois team look ill prepared, demoralized, and just downright bad.

When first time starter Blaine Gabbert wasn’t distributing passes all over the field, he was making plays with his feet.  When a clearly improved Missouri secondary wasn’t forcing Juice Williams into bad throws, the defensive line was harassing him.  As former Missouri standout Jeremy Maclin told Weatherspoon following the game, Mizzou’s performance, “Almost brought tears to his eyes.”

Blaine Gabbert was the Big 12's highest rated passer in week one. (AP photo)

Blaine Gabbert was the Big 12's highest rated passer in week one. (AP photo)

Following Missouri’s drubbing of Illinois it would be easy for the team to get overconfident.  However, Head Coach Gary Pinkel is making sure that will not happen as Mizzou prepares for its home opener this Saturday against Bowling Green.

“Every player has things they can do to improve,” Pinkel said.  “We’re not good enough to be overconfident.”

After yet another victory in the Arch Rivalry, the Tigers are looking forward to returning home to “The Zou.”

The University is trying to get the nickname, “The Zou,” to catch on this year.  The nickname has been added to the new scoreboard and the sides of the stadium.  Whether you call it Faurot Field or The Zou, Pinkel just hopes it is filled this weekend.

“I’ll be real disappointed if we don’t have 70,000 people there in gold,” he said.  We’re trying to create that as one of the toughest places to play in the United States.”

Weatherspoon agrees with his coach about Saturday’s attendance.

“I’ll be disappointed as well [if there aren’t 70,000 in attendance].

If Missouri plays like they did last Saturday, not only will they not be disappointed about attendance, but also their outcome on the field.

-MG

Advertisements

Bold Predictions

With the 2009 football season just hours away, we felt compelled to step out on a limb with a few brash predictions for Mizzou this year.  Brace yourself for 13 predictions you might not see coming.

While we aren't exactly predicting a BCS bowl for Gary Pinkel the Tigers, some may be surprised with our predictions. (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

While we aren't exactly predicting a BCS bowl for Gary Pinkel the Tigers, some may be surprised with our thoughts. (Photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

MG – Bold Prediction 1: Missouri will enter conference play undefeated.

I don’t even know if this qualifies as bold.  Gary Pinkel has taken this program to a level where, barring some sort of total disaster, the Tigers days of losing to Bowling Green should be behind them.  The Furman game (or shall we say scrimmage?) is already chalked up as a W.  For those out there that think Nevada may knock off Missouri this season, I’m sorry, a team doesn’t get beaten 69-17 one year and then rebound the following year for a win.  It’s just not happening.  I understand they have a very capable quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, a solid offense, and are a team that should be in a bowl game again this year, but despite Mizzou’s loss of talent, Nevada hasn’t caught up by 52 points.  Having said all of that, this prediction comes down to the Illinois game.  On paper Illinois has more weapons.  They are probably the logical choice.  But Pinkel just seems to have Ron Zook’s number.  Zook has never led Illinois to a win over Missouri.  I think Missouri squeaks out a close win in week one and carries that momentum through the remainder of the non-conference schedule.

TW – Bold Prediction 2: Wes Kemp leads the team in receptions and fewest dropped balls, but Danario Alexander will lead Missouri in receiving yards and Jared Perry in touchdowns.

Wes Kemp and Blaine Gabbert are not only friends since high school, but were also roommates throughout the 2008 season in which they both saw the field as true freshman.  The duo have developed a good chemistry on the field this off-season and Gabbert seems to have a certain trust in going to Kemp under pressure.  The 6’4,” 225 lb. Kemp is a big target with good hands.  This past spring he earned the team’s “Most Improved Wide Receiver,” recognition.  Starting in the Z wide receiver position, Kemp should be relied on as a possession receiver who will make a significant impact on the Tiger offense.

As for yardage, Danario Alexander’s size (6’5” 215 lbs.)and big play ability have been apparent since he was a freshman and was initially listed ahead of some guy named Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart.  When healthy, we all know what Alexander can do (case in point ’07 vs. Illinois: 9 catches for 82 yards).  He has averaged over 15 yards per catch in eight games over the course of his career.  While he may not receive as many passes as Kemp, Alexander should rack up the yardage in 2009.

Most people would expect Alexander to lead the team in TD’s strictly based on size.   Opposing defenses will focus on Alexander inside the redzone allowing the long and lean Perry to get open underneath.  As long as Perry can hold on to the ball, he should improve upon his 41 catch, 567 yard, 4 touchdown season he recorded a year ago.

MG – Bold Prediction 3: Kevin Rutland will become a household name for Missouri fans.

If Kevin Rutland isn’t a name with which you’re already familiar, you will be after this season.  The 6′ junior cornerback will be a starter this year and should help improve the Missouri secondary that ranked 117th against the pass last year.  His progression in the Mizzou program has been equated to William Moore, who burst onto the national scene in his junior year.  Look for Rutland to do the same.  He has NFL speed and coaches love his potential.

MG – Bold Prediction 4: Hardy Ricks will do the same.

Ricks is a senior with more experience than people may know.  He has played in 40 games over his career and has four career starts.  However, that is not why Ricks is going to make headlines.  He will do it with his big hits and nose for the football.  In limited time against Texas last year he recorded a career-high nine tackles.  Look for those type of numbers to become the norm for Ricks who the Mizzou media guide calls, “Arguably the hardest hitter on the team.”  I’m not the only one who thinks this could be a big year for Ricks.  The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Dave Matter, arguably the best source for Mizzou football insight, also had glowing remarks about Ricks in a recent blog entry on the paper’s website.

“Just got a hunch on Ricks,” Matter wrote.  “He’s got top-five speed on the entire team and can lay a vicious hit. He’s due to make an impact.”

Look for Ricks and Rutland to lead a Mizzou secondary that has nowhere to go but up in 2009.

TW – Bold Prediction 5: Fans will not be disappointed come signing day with plenty of stars to make them happy.

There are plenty of 4 stars and well represented 3 stars with a high interest in Mizzou. On top of that it is certain names will surface midseason that no one can predict at this point. As well the unranked Tigers project to 3 stars and maybe a 4 star thrown in.

MG – Bold Prediction 6: De’Vion Moore will have people talking about a running back controversy.

Derrick Washington is a great running back.  He is a leader on the team and has impressive seasons under his belt that lead us to believe he will be even better in 2009.  This prediction is not taking anything away from D-Wash, but is rather a tribute to how good De’Vion Moore is.  One former Mizzou player I talked to this summer said he believes that Moore is not just a nice compliment to Washington, but rather the better back altogether.  Pinkel has already said that Moore is the best back-up running back he’s coached.  At just 5’9,” the shifty and speedy Moore will provide Missouri with a great second option in the backfield.  Coming off spring practice where he was named the team’s Most Improved Offensive Back, Moore will see more than his fair share of carries – and big plays – in 2009.

TW – Bold Prediction 7: Even with Reactor lot being closed to tailgating, college kids will still find somewhere to party before games.

This one is inevitable.  As the University and Columbia police continue to crack down on underage drinking in Columbia, the popular tailgating spot known as Reactor Field will be turned into a media parking lot and will be closed to fans.

According to a document released by the MU athletic department, “This change in policy was decided upon by the University of Missouri and supported by the MU Police Department and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics in an effort to eliminate some of the disturbances and operational challenges that occurred in the lot last season.”

Nonetheless, college students are going to tailgate somewhere, so I’ll go ahead and say that while Tom’s prediction is accurate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to many.

MG – Bold Prediction 8: Of Missouri’s biggest games on the schedule – Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas, and KU – the Tigers go 3-2.

I’ve already gone on record saying I believe Missouri beats Illinois.  That means I think we’ll go 2-2 in the remaining, “big games.”  Most people are counting Oklahoma State and Texas as automatic losses.  I think that is accurate as well, but I wouldn’t be 100 percent shocked to see Missouri return the favor done to them last year and upset Okie State.  In Missouri’s series with the Cowboys, the home team is 0-3 at home in the last three meetings.  Maybe that trend continues this season.  More reasonably, I think Missouri finds its three wins against the “big opponents,” against Illinois, Nebraska and KU.  However, with such a young team I wouldn’t be surprised to see a loss to one of the lower ranked teams and then see the Tigers shock the nation and steal a win in Stillwater.

Having said that….

MG – Bold Prediction 9: Missouri will lose one game fans expect them to win. (And I’m not counting Illinois, Nebraska, or KU as expected wins).

Time to fall back to reality after getting wildly optimistic with that last prediction.  Every critic in the world will tell you a million reasons why Missouri will be bad in 2009.  They are young, unproven, have a rookie quarterback, the list goes on and on.  Heck, we’re Missouri fans.  We’re used to bad losses and bad luck here and there.  Mizzou has dropped games to Bowling Green, Troy and New Mexico while being coached by Gary Pinkel.  We can’t act like a loss to Baylor, Colorado, K-State or Iowa State would be all that shocking this season.  With such a young team and a new starting quarterback, gone are the days when we as fans can simply count certain Big 12 games as guaranteed wins. (Want to be brought back to reality even further?  Read this random article I stumbled upon earlier:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/243044-why-the-missouri-tigers-wont-go-bowling-in-2009/ )

TW- Bold Prediction 10: Blaine Gabbert’s true coming out  party will come on Thursday October 8th throwing 3 TDs and adding one by ground beating Nebraska.

They call them bold predictions, and I really have no basis, I’m just being bold. Blaine goes for 330 and 4 in the air, adding another 60 and 1 on the ground. We can all only hope he preforms like this.

TW- Bold Prediction 11: Our top 3 Defensive Ends will rank in the top ten in the nation for sacks by 3 teammates.

Go through all division 1 football teams and take their top three sack leaders at the end of the season, and Missouri will rank in that top 10. This is not a bold prediction on my part, no, I’m guaranteeing this one.

TW – Bold Prediction 12:  Carl Gettis is closer to 2007 Gettis than 2008 Gettis, and the defense as a unit follows suit.

Carl Gettis returns to the lockdown corner he was as a true freshman and not just a warm body in the secondary like everyone was last year.  While the defense returns to respectability and allows missouri to compete with out scoring 40 or 50 points a game.

MG – Bold Prediction 13: Missouri fans will be glad Matt Eberflus is gone.

Usually when a college team’s defensive coordinator leaves his position to move up to the NFL, it is considered a big loss for the college team.  But not necessarily in the case of Eberflus.  He had coached under Pinkel since 1992 and was Mizzou’s D-coordinator since 2001.  Eberflus did a very good job over the course of his career at Missouri.  In 2007 alone he was named National Defensive Coordinator of the Week on two occasions. However, last year’s defense left a bad taste in people’s mouth.  There is no other way to explain the 117th best pass defense other than poor communication and poor coaching.  It certainly wasn’t like Eberflus was working with a lack talent.  Three players from last year’s defense will be playing in the NFL this fall.  Players often complained of schemes that were too complex and were oftentimes found out of position.  Those complex schemes had to be the reason for a lot the blown coverage we saw last season.  I mean, how else do you explain Juice Williams throwing for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns?  It’s Juice Williams. The only way Juice puts up those numbers is due to broken coverage and poor communication.  So Eberflus bounced to the NFL while the opportunity was there and in stepped Dave Steckel.  The no-nonsense coach was promoted from linebackers coach to replace Eberflus.  Having coached at Mizzou since 2001, Steckel is familiar with the program and its personnel.  He has simplified the defensive schemes and players seem to be liking him thus far.  Steckel’s transition to defensive coordinator should be a seamless one.

Reflections on Mizzou Before We Kickoff

 

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think.

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think. (Photo by Chris Lee, STL Today)

            Yep, I will graciously confess that, until about two weeks ago, I was one of the individuals that the previous author eluded to when denouncing that this year’s Missouri football team is so different than last year’s to have any reasonable expectations for high success.  The 2009 team is lacking many of the tangible assets that gave the 2007-2008 squads such fruition.  The team is lacking proven superstars.  No more Chase Daniel, no more Jeremy Maclin, no more Chase Coffman, and “no mo” Willy Mo. 

While star power has diminished on the roster, it has also diminished in the booth.  Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen booked it to Laramie to begin a horseshoe business (and head Wyoming’s football program), while defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus ran to the NFL.  With their departures came two new familiar faces.  Commanding the offensive side of the ball is Dave Yost, the former Missouri quarterbacks coach who looks more like he belongs at afternoon meetings on the beach scoping swells with Laird Hamilton than he does scoping Big 12 defenses.  Dave Steckel, the muscular linebackers coach is taking over as defensive coordinator for Eberflus. 

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team?  I will take football.

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team? I will take football. (Photo by L.G. Patterson, AP)

            With all of these losses from a year ago, it would be silly to put any stock into this year’s Missouri squad, wouldn’t it?  Two weeks ago, my answer would have been yes.  I was commanding the bandwagon of doubters, sipping on ‘haterade’ and just wishing that the ‘ole boys could come back for one last season; one last shot at a Big 12 Championship.  The news of Sheldon Richardson being academically ineligible to attend the university had me listening to Adam Lambert’s gloomy version of ‘Mad World’ for weeks.  I would have never even dreamt of saying that Mizzou could knock off Illinois, who albeit struggled last year, still has a boatload of talent returning this season.

            Finally, after weeks of swimming in a sea of doubt, I woke up from the doldrums.  I attended Mizzou training camp scrimmages and saw the potential that this year’s team has.  Blaine Gabbert looks like he is the real deal.  At 6’5”, 240 lbs. Gabbert has the NFL body that Chase Daniel didn’t have, and the quickness that every coach dreams of having in a signal caller.

Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary.

Blaine Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary. (Photo by Julia Robinson, Columbia Daily Tribune.)

Gabbert is not alone, however.  Danario Alexander will be his primary target, and rumors have swirled saying that some players think Alexander could be better than Maclin, if healthy.  Well, Danario is healthy now, so let the debate begin. 

Derrick Washington returns.  De’Vion Moore will have an increased role.  Andrew Jones has the potential to become the next great tight end at ‘Tight End U.” 

Sean Weatherspoon is no longer sandwiched between talented defensive stars in Ziggy Hood and William Moore.  But, Spoon does seem hungrier than ever and he put on the weight over the summer to crack enough hard hits to make up for their losses.

I do not want to run through the whole roster and tell you who I think can replace holes from last year’s team.  That would just bore you, and considering that the opener against Illinois is tomorrow night, I’m sure you all are already clued in.

What I’m trying to accomplish with this elegantly scribed column is that Mizzou football is not as destitute as people like Kirk Herbstreit think (in case you didn’t hear, Herbstreit picked Mizzou as his No. 1 team on the move down in 2009.) 

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent.

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent. (Midwest Sports fans photo)

While it may not protrude as much as in the past couple years, Mizzou’s talent is still there.  You just have to look a little harder and give some of the younger guys a chance.  If anything, I have always thought that it is Mizzou’s system that makes players great.  Gary Pinkel does an excellent job at developing players and recruiting for his system.  So, while there isn’t a plethora of four and five star recruits distributed across the roster, I trust what the coaching staff is doing.

Don’t think too long and hard about predictions for tomorrow’s game with Illinois.  It will drive you crazy.  Trust me.  I have hopped from one side of the fence to another for weeks trying to figure out this one.  I am settling on, “It’s gonna be a good game.” 

If the talent-laden Illinois team shows up in full force, then Mizzou will have some trouble.  Arrelious Benn is as dominant receiver as any in the country, and if Juice Williams can get him the ball without making too many mistakes, then Missouri will need to adjust effectively if they want to succeed.  The Illinois team may look better on paper, but all too often, game are won with intangibles like leadership, strategy, and aggressiveness.  As we saw last season with Illinois, a team with Rose Bowl talent can easily become a 5-7 team if not coached effectively. 

Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday.

WR Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday. (Athlon Sports photo)

Mizzou is entering this season extremely hungry, determined to prove that there will not be as big of a drop off in achievement as everyone thinks, if any.  One more thing: After the crew here at the Columns told Sean Weatherspoon about Herbstreit’s comments, he said that he will deliver one hell of a pregame speech on Saturday and keep the ESPN analyst’s comments in mind.  As far as I’m concerned, I would not want to be running out on offense to line up against a defense that was just motivated by Spoon, who jokingly said that “some tears might be involved” in his pregame hollering. 

-PF

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

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

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