Blaine Gabbert 2009 versus Chase Daniel 2006 versus Brad Smith 2002

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(Daniel and Smith photos by Sarah Becking, Gabbert photo courtesy St. Louis Post Dispatch)

 

Missouri had better fortunes replacing franchise quarterbacks earlier in the program’s history. After Paul Christman’s All-American career ended in 1940, Missouri went 8-2 in 1941, won the Big Six Conference and played in the Sugar Bowl behind Don Faurot’s Split-T formation, led by Bob Steuber, Harry Ice and Maurice Wade.

In 1966, Missouri replaced All-Big Eight quarterback Gary Lane with Gary Kombrink, who filled in admirably and led MU to back-to-back winning seasons.

In 1981, the Tigers played in a fourth straight bowl game despite losing All-Big Eight quarterback Phil Bradley. That season, Brad Perry and Mike Hyde kept the Tigers afloat.

From a 2006 Trib article about Chase Daniel replacing Brad Smith.  Just thought I'd share.

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We're all clearly very curious about how Blaine Gabbert's performance--both in 2009 and down the line--may compare to that of Chase Daniel and Brad Smith, and while it's far too early to make any strong conclusions, I thought it would be interesting to compare scrimmage performances at this point in respective careers.  That would mean comparing Gabbert's 2009 spring to Daniel's 2006 spring, and to a lesser extent Brad Smith's 2002 spring.  Let's take a look!

Brad Smith 2002

While the torch was very clearly passed from Smith to Daniel after 2005, and from Daniel to Gabbert after 2008, 2002 was a complete mystery.  Missouri entered spring football '02 with an injury-prone incumbent (Kirk Farmer) battling two redshirt freshmen (Smith, Sonny Riccio).  There was quite a bit of pub for Smith's running ability, but that didn't really translate to practices where QBs are touched down.  In the first round of practices, Smith threw at least one interception just about every day, but he started playing well in the team's first scrimmage, throwing a TD pass to Ben Frederickson while rotating with Farmer and Riccio between the 1st and 2nd strings.

By the time the Black & Gold game came around, Smith was the leader for the starting job, but with his ascension came a lot of question marks.  Was it smart to anoint a redshirt freshman as the starter when a more proven commodity in Farmer was sitting on the bench?  The questions didn't necessarily subside when the defense dominated the '02 Black & Gold game.  Smith was by all means decent--12-for-21 passing, 89 yards, 1 TD, plus 22 yards rushing--but so was Farmer (11-for-18, 118 yards, 1 INT, 2 carries for 28 yards), and it did seem like Gary Pinkel was taking a leap of faith by going with the redshirt freshman.

Of course, 10 minutes into the Missouri-Illinois game, it was clearly obvious that Pinkel had made the right choice, but it's interesting to note how nondescript #16 had been the previous spring.

Chase Daniel 2006

Many people tried to pretend that, entering the spring of 2006, Missouri had another QB battle on its hands.  Brandon Coleman was the old hand, the 5th-year senior.  Chase Patton was Golden Boy I, the redshirt Elite 11 sophomore from Rock Bridge who was going to put things together at any moment.  Sure, Chase Daniel had gotten valuable experience in 2005, playing in 9 games and saving Mizzou's season against Iowa State, but still...this is going to be a battle!

Yeah, right.  Coleman and Patton were clearly both decent quarterbacks, but this was Daniel's job from the moment the 2005 Independence Bowl ended.  He took vocal control over the offense immediately, and the results slowly started to come.  He was 15-for-25 for 189 yards in the spring's first scrimmage, by all means a decent performance.  But he improved by leaps and bounds just about every following practice.  By the end of spring, he was almost perfect.  He threw 12 passes in the '06 Black & Gold game, completing 11 of them for 120 yards and 2 TDs.  Granted, it helped having future Mackey Award winner Chase Coffman catching a lot of those passes, but it was clear that Daniel had taken over the job, and everybody else was fighting for a distant #2.

The run of success continued in August, as Daniel continued to put up obscene numbers.  From a 2006 preview article from Dave Matter:

"The awards that I had won … the national player of the year and all that crap, that was great," Daniel said. Other players "knew all of that and said stuff like, ‘Whoa, it’s the national player of the year.’ But I came here and worked my butt off to earn respect. You can’t come in here as a freshman, especially with Brad Smith here, without earning respect."

He kept the same attitude throughout camp the last few weeks, refusing to acknowledge he was the No. 1 quarterback until Pinkel officially declared it Aug. 21.

There was never much doubt. Going back to the spring game, Daniel has completed 48 of 64 passes for 583 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in Missouri’s last four scrimmages. That computes to a quarterback rating of 177.3. For comparison’s sake, Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter led the nation last year with a 175.0 rating.

For Daniel, the results started coming around the Black & Gold game, and they didn't stop until the end of the 2008 season.

Blaine Gabbert 2009

So where does Gabbert stand?  Clearly there's still plenty to learn, and clearly you still can't glean too much from these results, but Gabbert is more than holding his own against previous spring performances from Smith and Daniel.  Apparently the lightbulb came on back in December during bowl practices, and ever since, Gabbert has been running the show.

In Scrimmage #1, Gabbert threw mostly short routes on the way to a lovely 27-for-37 (73%) performance for 203 yards (5.5 per pass), 1 TD, and 1 INT.  That defeats Daniel's first spring scrimmage, though as we covered above, Daniel figured things out pretty quickly.

In last week's mini-scrimmage, Gabbert looked fine again, completing 9-of-13 (69%) passes for a solid 79 yards (6.1 per pass).  And on Saturday, he started throwing downfield, meaning the percentage went down and the yards went up.  Throwing mostly to Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp, Gabbert was a cool 17-for-29 (59%) for 236 yards (8.1 per pass) and 2 TDs.  So in the three (2.5?) scrimmages, #11 has clocked in a 53-for-79 (67%) performance with 518 yards (6.6 per pass), 3 TDs and 1 INT.  All "It's spring football" disclaimers aside, that's pretty good.  It's on par with what Brad Smith did, and it's at least as good as Chase Daniel's.  If he wants to keep up with Daniel's pace, however, he needs to have one helluva Black & Gold game.  I won't lose any sleep if he doesn't, but that would be the perfect time for a "This is my team" statement.

What was the point of this exercise?  There really wasn't one.  As much as you can draw conclusions from spring ball, it's pretty easy to conclude that, with his first spring as #1 QB almost out of the way, Blaine Gabbert has taken the necessary steps to becoming Missouri's next very good starting quarterback.  Or as David Yost put it in yesterday's strong Post-Dispatch feature:

"He's doing all the things we want him to do at this time," said David Yost, Pinkel's new offensive coordinator and longtime quarterbacks coach. "He's really kind of pressing himself into looking like a Big 12 quarterback that can lead a team to victories, and that's what our purpose was this spring — to see how far we can push him and see where he can get to and what he can do for us.

"The better he can do, the better we're going to be."

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