Pinkel Press Conference

Head football coach, Gary Pinkel, discussed the upcoming spring football season with reporters, including the Tigers uncertain QB position.

Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel was late to his own press conference Sunday afternoon as he was on the road, visiting recruits. Despite the hectic preseason schedule, Pinkel is focused on the 2006 spring football season.

In his comments, Pinkel emphasized the high level of competition for each of the spots on the team this year, including the vacancy left at quarterback by graduating senior Brad Smith.

"All jobs are open. That's how we do everything," Pinkel said. "I don't care if you've been a starter for four (years) or not."

He added, "I think they (spots) are all open. If you can beat the guy out, go beat the guy out."

Pinkel did acknowledge the experience the returning players bring to the Missouri team. He also maintained that the leadership those players have brought to the team has taken it to a level that is perhaps the highest he has ever seen.

Still, the leadership Pinkel has noticed is not totally due to the current players themselves, Pinkel said. "We had probably the best leadership we'd ever had last year, and I think that was a great visual aid for these seniors."

Pinkel stated that player experience would play a crucial role in the implementation of the spread offense, which was integrated last season during spring football. Pinkel insisted that even without Brad Smith, the offense would still keep the same basics.

"This (the offense) wasn't changed for Brad Smith, and I said that a year ago at this time. This was a(n) offense change because we wanted to be more attacking…we want to have more potential to score," he said.

However, there will be differences in the role of the quarterback this year, added Pinkel.

"The running backs will carry the ball a lot more. We're not going to run our quarterbacks 18 times a game; it's not gonna happen. We're still going to run the option, there're still things (for the QB) to do, but he'll be a distributor - and that's to the tailbacks, the tight ends, the wide receivers," Pinkel said.

Pinkel mentioned specific players who would not be available for spring football due to off-season surgery. Among them was tailback Tony Temple, who had surgery just over a week ago after therapy and rehabilitation failed to meet his needs. Kyle Riggs will also not be available for spring workouts.

Of the healthy players, Paul Simpson, a junior college transfer, will compete for a spot at safety. Sophomore Brock Christopher, who filled in at linebacker when Dedrick Harrington broke his arm in the 2005 season, is expected to contend for a starting spot this year.

A possible seven players will be competing at the tailback position for the 2006 season – none of those seven are seniors, and only two of them are juniors. The competition for that particular spot, with 2005 starter Marcus Woods returning, is at a very high level, Pinkel noted.

As for other players, Matt Casaday is expected to stay at place-kicker but will also do some field goal kicking. Both tight ends, Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker, will return to share time on the field. And although Coffman and Rucker cannot, with the spread offense of Missouri, be on the field at the same time all the time, Pinkel plans to run some sets with them both on the playing field.

On the whole, said Pinkel, he has a very athletic team. The challenge and project during spring football is to take that athleticism and turn it into football skill.

And as for the open, highly publicized quarterback position, many expect Chase Daniel to be the starting quarterback, as he shared some series with Brad Smith in the 2005 season, most notably leading Missouri to a come-from-behind win at home against Iowa State.

But Pinkel insisted that no one person had the job. Just as with the battles at every position, the quarterback job will be given to the best person.

"May the best man win," Pinkel said.

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