The Missouri Tigers have quite a bit to replace from their 2008 team that went 10-4. Mizzou had a Big 12 Conference high six players picked in the NFL Draft this past April, including wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman.
On top of that they must replace their field general in quarterback Chase Daniel, who signed a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins.
2009 will be a year where Missouri either proves to the nation they are one of the top up and coming programs in college football or they are just a two year trend because of a couple of good players like Daniel and Coffman.
PowerMizzou.com publisher Gabe DeArmond broke down the Tigers coming out of spring football and heading into summer conditioning.
What is the mindset of the team after spring ball after all the guys they've lost and all the questions they still must answer?
"The outlook outside of Columbia is going to be focusing on everything they've lost. But Gary Pinkel has been their head coach for a long time and losing players is just part of college football. Every year you lose players and some years you lose more than others. The people around the program will tell you that they feel like they have more potential and athleticism than they've ever had at Missouri. At the same time they understand that not very many of these guys have done it on Saturday yet.
"There are going to be some questions about this team that are probably going to linger through the nonconference season. The good thing with Missouri is they start with Illinois and then they go to Nevada, so you're going to get some answers—they aren't starting with two patsies off the bat."
Blaine Gabbert is a guy that is physically gifted athlete, but obviously he has some big shoes to fill. What did you think of his spring? How good can he be in year one?
"I thought Blaine played as well as anybody could've expected him to play this spring. With that said, the questions about Blaine Gabbert are not questions you can answer in the spring. He's 6-5, he's 230 pounds. When you look at him, he's an NFL quarterback. He has the arm of an NFL quarterback. The question is does he make the decisions and can he run the game like an NFL quarterback. That's what Chase Daniel could do. On game day Chase Daniel was an NFL quarterback. At the combine doing all the different tests, he was not an NFL quarterback. Gabbert is that, but we don't know what he's going to be on Saturday.
"He has the best arm of any quarterback I've seen at Missouri. He can make throws that Chase Daniel couldn't make. With that said, he also doesn't have Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin or Martin Rucker and Will Franklin to work with. I think as much as losing Chase Daniel is big, Missouri has four receivers that are in the NFL right now."
Dave Christensen was obviously a big loss too at offensive coordinator. Has anything changed with a new quarterback and a new OC? How much have they tinkered with things and maybe changed things to fit Blaine Gabbert better than they fit Chase Daniel?
"Any coach is going to do that. If you look at Missouri's offense under Chase Daniel, it wasn't the same as Missouri's offense under Brad Smith. I think that's one thing Missouri has going for them. Four years ago we were all sitting around going 'I don't know how you replace a guy that was the best quarterback in school history?' Well, they replaced him with a guy that is now clearly the best quarterback in school history.
"As far as Christensen goes, I think this could be a positive for Missouri. I say that with all due respect to Dave Christensen who did a lot of good things offensively for the last three or four years. However, there were times under him where Missouri would get down by 10 points, and the Alamo Bowl was one of those games, and when that happened Missouri was done running the football. They gave up on it.
"This year, not only does (Dave) Yost stick to it even more, but also his best player is not as quarterback or not at wide receiver. His best player is Derrick Washington at tailback who ran for 1000 yards, despite being injured for 9 out of 12 games this year. I think you are definitely going to see more of a balanced attack. You aren't going to see 45 or 55 passes a game. I think Missouri would rather have that number down to 30 or 35 this year."
How important will this year be to give Blaine Gabbert some confidence for the future?
"I don't think it's so much just Gabbert, I think it tells recruits out there if they can keep it up. It tells the talking heads something at ESPN that are picking them to go 4-8. If you can go 8-4 after losing all that you had lost last year, I think it makes a statement of how far this program has come and the fact that they are here to stay and they just aren't a latch in the pan."
How much will this year show people if Missouri is truly a program or if they are just a four or five year trend because of a few good players?
"That's what this year is for Missouri. The last two years got Missouri on a national stage. What this year does is decide if Missouri is Virginia Tech or Texas Tech. With that, I mean, this is going to be kind of a step backwards. I think even the most optimistic Missouri fan would look at the schedule and say if we had no injuries and every ball bounces our way, maybe this team could go 10-2. Before everyone jumps on me and accuses me of being a homer, I'm just saying that's what could happen if everything goes their way. There are two games I just don't see them winning.
"In your 'rebuilding year,' if you go 9-3 or 8-4 that tells people you've been the best program in the Big 12 North the last two or three years, if you can still contend for a Big 12 North title in what's supposed to be a down year, and I think 8-4 or 9-3 will do that, than I think you are here to stay and you've kind established yourself as the program everybody is going to gun for.
"Now they could also take a bigger step back. 6-6, 7-5 or even 5-7 is not out of the question this year for the program. If that happens, I think you will probably lean towards saying Missouri had a great run, but they had it with Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin and players like William Moore. They are going to be a bowl team, but are they going to be a team that's going to be playing in the Big 12 title game on a consistent basis—to make that statement I think they have to win 8 games this year."
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