Missouri has been well known for their success on the offensive side of the ball in the past few seasons. Under the guidance of Dave Christensen, Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, and Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers have been among the nation's best in almost every offensive category.
Now with those four, and others, gone, a new era has officially been ushered in by Mizzou's 2009 Spring Game held on Saturday. Fans may be expecting a drop off in offensive production this season, but the team has other ideas.
Blaine Gabbert, the sophomore who will be replacing Daniel, impressed at Faurot Field on Saturday. Gabbert consistently fired the ball into his receivers' hands with precision, and looked confident in Missouri's patented spread offense. From his first pass, a 13 yard completion to Brandon Gerau to his final pass, a 4 yard completion to Andrew Jones to set up a field goal attempt, I believe Gabbert firmly established himself as the #1 quarterback on the Tigers.
"I thought he had a really, really good spring," head coach Gary Pinkel said.
Jimmy Costello, the current #2 quarterback on the depth chart, did not have a great game. Costello went 3 and out on all of his first 6 drives, and ended that drought only when his team got the ball on the opponent's 2 yard line after a Blaine Dalton fumble.
The stand out player in today's game, at least on the offensive side of the ball, was sophomore receiver Jerrell Jackson. He continually was open for his quarterbacks, and, despite a few bad throws, he ended up with 65 all-purpose yards. Jackson's offensive coordinator was impressed.
"He gets the ball in his hands, and he can change the game, he can get vertical on people, and I think you could see that today. He's going to be a big factor in our offense," Dave Yost said.
Jackson's quarterback and head coach thought he was impressive, as well.
"You get the ball in [his] hands, big things will happen, you saw that today," Gabbert said.
Pinkel said, "I thought Jerrell Jackson made some plays."
Replacing the all-time leading pass receiver at tight end in Chase Coffman is Andrew Jones. Mizzou fans may remember Jones because of his playing time last season. When Coffman went down with an injury, Jones got a lot of snaps under his belt. Jones only had 19 yards on 3 catches in today's spring game, but expect a lot more from number 87 this season.
Replacing Gary Pinkel's long time offensive coordinator, Dave Christensen, is Dave Yost, the former quarterbacks coach for the Tigers. Yost is brining a similar approach to the offense, but will put his own stamp on the team. He is excited his offensive unit this season.
"I think we've made strides, but what we do from now until two-a-days is going to be indicitve of what kind of team we can be," Yost said.
After the game, Pinkel emphasized that this exhibition does not signal the end for changes on the depth chart. Expect it to be very fluid leading up to the Illinois game.
"We don't make starting depth charts for the Illinois game after spring ball," Pinkel said. "We've got a lot of practices, yet, and a lot of preparation, before our first game in 140 days."
Nonetheless, Pinkel is excited about what he has seen from the team so far, competition wise. "There's a lot of time out there, and everyone's going to work to get better, and the competition will remain, and that's good."
Gabbert was 9/17 for 93 yards with 1 interception, along with 8 yards on 5 carries.
26 yards receiving for Jackson, and 39 yards on two reverses (one was 38 yards, the other was 1)
Jonnie Fields led the way in the receiving department, catching 4 balls for 53 yards.
The first team offensive line gelled well together, they prevented the defense from getting any true sacks on Gabbert. Sure, they touched him a couple times, and that counts as a sack in the spring game, but they wouldn't have been sacks in real games.
The two true freshman QBs, Blaine Dalton and Ashton Glazer, looked and played a little timid. It is just their first spring game, though, and most of their high school teammates probably have prom today, so I'm not worrying too much. Give the two talented quarterbacks a full summer to practice, and they will be comfortable come gametime against Illinois.
"Most Improved" awards were given out at halftime. The winners on offense were Dan Hoch-offensive line, Wes Kemp-wide receiver, Michael Egnew-tight end, DeVion Moore and Blaine Gabbert-offensive backfield, and Tanner Mills-special teams.