The glory days of Sonny Riccio have passed us by.
Riccio, who transferred to Division I-AA powerhouse Delaware this spring, leaves behind an enormous legacy, based almost entirely on the effectiveness of one play: a fake field goal pass, where Riccio, as the holder, found TE Victor Sesay in the end zone for the go-ahead score in Missouri's monumental 41-24 win against Nebraska that season.
Riccio had a hand in doing what Kirk Farmer, Jim Daugherty, Corby Jones and many others could never do: beat the Cornhuskers. His replacement will likely not need to prove he can do that, but the coaching staff must have confidence that sophomore Brandon Coleman can run the offense if incumbent junior Brad Smith goes down.
"Our big thing right now for Coleman is, can he run the offense, can we win with him?" coach Gary Pinkel said before fall practice began.
At this point, the answer is a resounding maybe. Coleman has had an up and down fall, often looking confident under center with the second team offense, and then struggling to complete a pass at other times. Coleman is similar to Smith in style--both are athletic, mobile, and shifty in the pocket--but Coleman does not have the breakaway speed that makes Smith a duel threat.
Despite the notoriety of the Nebraska score, Riccio was more than a one trick pony. He attempted a pass in six of Missouri's games in 2003, and was the holder for every field goal and extra point attempt. He stepped in admirably when Smith suffered a concussion at Ball State, racking up 59 yards and a touchdown on 7-of-12 passing in the second half of the 35-7 win. The coaching staff must determine if Coleman is capable of the same kind of production.
Coleman's most dire afternoon came during the Tigers' second scrimmage of the fall season, when he completed just 9-of-26 passes for 32 yards. Granted, most of his reps came against the top defensive unit, Coleman spent most of the afternoon with negative passing yards.
Perhaps the highlight of that day for Coleman was his effectiveness in Missouri's two-minute drill. Coleman completed several downfield passes and seemed to manage the clock well, even running for a first down. But there were trouble signs then, as well. In an attempt to spike the ball and stop the clock, Coleman juggled the snap, eventually getting a hold of it long enough to spike it. Coleman was penalized for intentional grounding, costing his team five yards and a down, killing the drive.
It would take something extraordinary for freshman Chase Patton to surpass Coleman on the depth chart, but his presence should do nothing but push Coleman. Patton's fall has also been up and down, but, after looking every bit a true freshman as he struggled through the first week of practice, Patton really excelled as camp wore on.
The departure of fellow freshman Darrell Jackson solidified Patton as the No. 3 quarterback and might have calmed him down a bit. Patton appeared more comfortable every day of the second week of practice, climaxing in the same scrimmage that Coleman struggled so mightily. Unofficially, Patton amassed 190 yards and the day's only touchdown on 19-of-24 passing, drawing significant praise from Pinkel in the process.
"I was very impressed," Pinkel said after the scrimmage. "This is only the second scrimmage he had, (and) the first drive was against the number one defense. There are some good folks on that number one defense. He didn't seem too concerned about it."
That maturity means Patton must at least receive consideration to start the season as Smith's backup, although it seems a long shot for that to happen. Coleman already has two full seasons in the Missouri system, meaning he is much more comfortable with the offense than Patton is at this point. Patton may even be redshirted to start the season, but that designation could change at a moment's notice.
A word of warning to any Big 12 special teams coaches reading this: if Brandon Coleman is the holder for a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter of a tight game, watch out!
Check back tomorrow as our countdown continues with No. 9.