We've already looked at who will be replacing Missouri legends Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Tommy Saunders in this "Replacements" series. Even though these three players discussed before were will be very hard to replace, I believe we have yet to discuss the largest hole that is left from the 2008 season. The NCAA's all-time leader in receptions for a tight end, Chase Coffman, left that hole. Let's look at the unbelievable numbers that he recorded in his 4 seasons at Mizzou.
Coffman in 2005: 47 receptions, 503 yards, 4 touchdowns
Coffman in 2006: 58 receptions, 628 yards, 9 touchdowns
Coffman in 2007: 52 receptions, 531 yards, 7 touchdowns
Coffman in 2008: 90 receptions, 987 yards, 10 touchdowns
As you can see, Coffman was a consistent target in the middle of the field all throughout his college career. His 2008 numbers look like that of a number one receiver, but he did so much more than a number one target could do. I believe Coffman was the main reason Missouri had as much success as they had in the Chase Daniel era because his threat over the middle opened up so many other options on the outside for Daniel to throw to. Coffman missed some time late in 2008 and the offense suffered greatly because of his absence. They struggled to move the ball because there wasn't as much of a threat across the middle, which allowed opposing defenses to cheat to the outside. Coffman was a game changer and it showed in his absence last year.
The man with the task of replacing Chase Coffman will be sophomore Andrew Jones. Jones is similar in stature to Coffman (6-5 230 pounds) and can be a very effective pass catcher in Missouri's spread style offense. During spring practice, I made sure to watch the players that would be replacing key members of the 2008 team. While watching Jones, it was obvious that he will not be used quite as much this year as Coffman was last season, but in the opportunities that he got to make plays he made the most of them. More than anything, I was impressed with his ball-catching ability and toughness after the catch. I predict that it won't be long before Jones is a fan favorite in Columbia.
Jones showed what he could do in action when Coffman was out of the lineup late in 2008, catching 7 passes for 61 yards in a start against Iowa State. As a true freshman, those are pretty impressive numbers for one game. He will no doubt go through some growing pains this season as he adjusts to being a full-time starter, but I think that getting into those games as a starter last season will prove to be pretty important for his development in the coming seasons.
I believe in Andrew Jones as much as anyone out there, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Tigers will miss the production of Chase Coffman more than any of the key players that they lost after 2008. Coffman was truly one of a kind and I don't think any tight end will be catching 90 passes in a season (while battling injuries) in the near future. It will be interesting to see how much his loss will affect the Tigers in 2009.