Last week InsideMizzou went position by position to look at how the Missouri offense might line up to kickoff the 2009 season. Today we take a broader approach and dissect how the departures and additions to the offensive unit could affect how the offense operates.
After looking at who might take field next season for the Tigers, the most important factor in their success is how they are utilized. No matter how much Coach Yost was involved in the game-planning and play-calling last season, it still was not his show. Now that he gets to make all the calls, it will be interesting to see what adjustments he makes.
The most glaring change for the Missouri offense in 2009 may be Chase Daniel not lining up behind center for the Tigers. Instead of the generously listed six-foot signal caller leading the troops, the Tigers are expected to have six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert in charge.
This change could have a very interesting effect on how Missouri starts out every play. For the past three seasons, Daniel has taken nearly every snap from seven yards behind the center. This is two yards further back then the traditional five-yard shotgun. The seven-yard cushion was installed specifically for Daniel because it was part of the system he had always played in and it gave the vertically challenged quarterback better passing lanes.
With Gabbert at the helm, the reasons for the seven-yard snap are basically eliminated. Last year was the first season Gabbert had taken snaps seven yards deep and he should have no problems finding passing lanes with his tall frame.
Assuming this change takes place, it could have a distinct effect on the Missouri running game as well. When the quarterback lines up seven yards in the backfield, it is difficult to give a running back a hand-off where he is not primarily moving laterally. On the other hand, if the quarterback is five yards deep, the running back can comfortably line-up a yard behind the quarterback and to his side, which would enable a better angle for a more direct run.
Whether it is this adjustment or not, Yost will have to find a way to improve on the running game to protect his young signal-caller. In Missouri's four losses this season Derrick Washington averaged only 28 yards per game on the ground.
In the passing game, the Tigers should be able to stretch the field better than they did during the last half of the 2008 season. After the Oklahoma State game, Missouri seemed tentative to look for the long ball which enabled opposing safeties to creep up and take away much of the Tigers' intermediate passing game.
Assuming the Tigers play to Gabbert's arm strength at least a handful of times per game, they should have a little more room to work in the middle of the field.
Regardless of the opponent, the Missouri receivers should have a great height advantage as five receivers/tight ends measure in at six-foot-four or taller. This height advantage should prove useful, especially in the redzone. Unfortunately, height alone will not carry this receiving core.
The Tigers will need to find a big-play receiver to stretch the defense, most likely Alexander or Woodland, and Yost will need to find the best way to utilize the unique running talents of McGaffie.
One other aspect of the offense Yost might look to improve is how the running backs are used in the passing game. Throughout the 2008 season, Washington proved himself to be a more than capable receiver as most of his 29 receptions came when he was split wide.
With an athletic offensive line, it will be interesting to see if Yost utilized the screen game to his running backs out of the backfield more often. This could especially prove useful if opposing defensive coordinators plan to test the young quarterback with a lot of blitz packages.
As always, the success of all of the adjustments and new players Yost installs will be contingent on the play of the offensive line. This unit should be a strength for Yost and Tigers in 2009 as they return three of the five starters from the last season and the other two expected starters played meaningful snaps in 2008.
Perhaps, the Achilles' heel of the 2009 offensive line is a lack of depth. None of the back-ups have logged much playing-time and if Fisher or Hoch were to go down, Pinkel would probably have to move Gregory out to tackle and replace him with Palmgren.
While it would be a lot to ask for the 2009 Missouri offense to be as successful as the 2008 version, it should be exciting for Tiger fans to see a fresh group of faces and perhaps a few new wrinkles.
InsideMizzou's Projected Two-Deep:
QB: Gabbert, Glaser RB: Washington, Moore X: Alexander, Woodland H: Jackson, McGaffie Z: Perry, Kemp TE: Jones, Egnew LT: Fisher, Davis LG: Wuebbles, Jenkins C: Barnes, Beasley RG: Gregory, Palmgren RT: Hoch, Prince