2010 Missouri Tigers Walkthrough: Quarterbacks

The "A 2009 Walkthrough" series was one of my favorite things I've done at RMN ... and I needed an e-mail reminder to do something similar in 2010.  Strange.  Anyway, over the next few days, RPT and I will go unit-by-unit, just like we did last year, discussing who's coming back, who's coming in, and how the position in 2010 stacks up with 2009.  We start, of course, with the big guy.

Returnees

Blaine Gabbert (6'5, 240, Jr.)
2009: 262-for-445 passing, 3,593 yards, 24 TD, 9 INT; 204 rushing yards, 3 TD
2008: 5-for-13 passing, 43 yards; 22 rushing yards

Bill C.: When healthy, Gabbert was everything Mizzou fans could have hoped he would be in his first season as Mizzou starter.  He learned as the season progressed, and, despite getting less experience as a true freshman and suffering through almost a month with a sprained ankle, his stats ended up quite comparable to Chase Daniel's in 2006.

Gabbert (2009): 58.9% completion rate, 8.1 yards per pass, 5.4% TD rate, 2.0% INT rate
Daniel (2006): 63.5% completion rate, 7.8 yards per pass, 6.2% TD rate, 2.2% INT rate

And even though it results in a slightly unfair comparison...

Healthy Gabbert (2009): 62.9% completion rate, 8.8 yards per pass, 6.6% TD rate, 1.1% INT rate

The obvious disclaimer with Healthy Gabbert's numbers is that they only count one quarter against the two best defenses Mizzou faced, Nebraska's and Texas'.  Obviously Healthy Gabbert's numbers would have suffered at least a bit if he'd been healthy for those games, but still ... it is still worth pointing out that Injured Gabbert completed only 44% of his passes, and he threw five of his nine interceptions in those 11 injured quarters.

Gabbert's advantages over the sophomore version of Daniel were pretty obvious -- his arm strength allowed him to fire more high-percentage passes further down the field, offering a similar completion rate while averaging more yards per pass.  Even despite the injury (and receivers adapting to the fact that he throws a lot harder than his predecessor), Gabbert threw fewer picks than Daniel, and I would not have guessed that at the beginning of the year.  His decision-making in terms of where to throw the ball were outstanding for a guy who barely played as either a true freshman or a high school senior -- he rarely trusted his arm too much just on the basis of its strength.

Gabbert's disadvantages were just as obvious.  While his decision-making was solid, his instincts are still a work in progress.  Bowling Green almost beat Mizzou by getting into Gabbert's head, dropping a ton of defenders into coverage, making him feel a pass rush that wasn't there, and forcing bad decisions.  Aside from a bit of regression in the bowl game, he learned from that experience and didn't make the same mistakes.  Still, his instincts led him astray at times, in terms of when to escape the pocket, when to step up and fire, and when to simply throw the ball away.  Daniel was the most instinctively strong quarterback Mizzou will probably ever have, and his ability to avoid killer mistakes and throw the ball away when the need arose led to a much more consistent, steady Mizzou offense; Gabbert's 2009 offense was much more boom-or-bust.

The ceiling here is just unbelievable.  If pure experience and quality coaching lead to improvement in Gabbert's instincts (and if his receivers help him out a bit), he has all the tools to become the best quarterback in the country.  He's already got all the physical tools you could want, and he's got two more years (we hope) to put everything together.  It is a scary thought.

Jimmy Costello (6'3, 225, Jr.)
2009: 9-for-17 passing, 54 yards, 2 INT

Bill C.: He did some solid shipbuilding in the spring and summer, locking down the #2 spot after Blaine Dalton's brilliant mistake.  When Blaine Gabbert was taken out against Texas, he put on his red shoes and attempted a night rally.  Unfortunately, his aim was not true.  He couldn't stand up for falling down, and while accidents will happen, he is now a boy with a problem.  A man out of time, so to speak.

(If you didn't understand any of that, go ahead and google "Elvis Costello" and proceed to roll your eyes like Costello fans already are.)

Translation: Costello was the #2 man this year, but coaches felt an injured Blaine Gabbert was still an infinitely better option than a healthy Costello, and when he got his chance in the second half of the Texas game, he didn't necessarily show too well.  He could still be a solid backup option in 2010, but I think it's safe to say that Ashton Glaser and the two incoming freshmen will have every opportunity to win the #2 job.

Ashton Glaser (6'0, 215, RSFr.)

Via Scout.com

Bill C.: A sleeper recruit in the 2009 class (not to mention an early arrival -- both he and the since-departed Blaine Dalton showed up last January), Glaser ran the spread in high school and brought to Columbia a Daniel-esque grasp of the offense. By all accounts, however, he struggled to adapt to the speed of the college game, and while he was able to make a decent plays and shouldn't be penalized for struggling while being "protected" (relatively speaking) by the 4th-string offensive line, inconsistency plagued his efforts in the spring and fall.  Obviously with two heralded freshmen starting school today as well, Glaser must show some immediate improvement if he ever wants to see the second string.  Nobody faces a more important spring (nor a more uphill battle) than Glaser.

Incoming

James Franklin (6'2, 225, 4.60)
Lake Dallas, TX, ****, #140 player in the country

Via HSgametime.com

RPT: The recruiting scene is littered with coaches, family members and personal trainers extolling the virtues of whichever recruit they're actively looking to promote. They'll tell you that any kid of theirs is destined for success. 

It takes a different type of player -- a top-level talent -- to garner that kind of praise from those who generally try to minimize that player's talent, namely opposing coaches. For that very reason, take to heart what John Walsh, coach of Denton Guyer, said about playing James Franklin and Franklin's Lake Dallas teams:

"The bottom line with James Franklin is he’s a proven winner," Walsh said. "You can just count on those types of guys playing big in big ball games."

Of course, the whole "proven winner at QB from Dallas/Fort Worth" is a lofty comparison to make in Mizzou circles these days. The same can be said for the "mobile QB to play in Pinkel's spread." And while I'm nowhere near ready to place anywhere near that kind of hype on Franklin, it's the combination of his skill set and his presence that gives me an incredible amount of excitement and anticipation for what his future may hold. 

There are dual threat QB recruits that are quicker. There are pro-style QBs with better arms. But Franklin brings a presence about him that transcends 40 times and bench numbers on a Rivals.com profile. You can see it when he subtly shifts in the pocket upon sensing the rush. You can see it when he rolls out, trying his damnedest to keep his eyes downfield. As simply as I can put it, he just comes across as a heady player.

Pardon me for getting caught up in intangibles, but that presence, or the "it factor" as Pinkel called it during the Chase Daniel era, is hard to capture. Franklin committed to Mizzou early and has stuck with that commitment the entire way despite several late suitors jumping in the mix. He's enrolling early for spring ball, and should very well find himself in the mix for the No. 2 job and a no-redshirt season. It's here where I should wrap up my ramblings so you can get you the YouTube videos below to check out his physical skills, but allow me to conclude with yet another testament to the type of leader Mizzou is getting. This blog post from the Denton Record Chronicle came after Lake Dallas' 21-16 playoff loss to Everman, in which Franklin had 304 total yards:
According to a comment on a previous blog Lake Dallas quarterback James Franklin sent out and [sic] e-mail or Facebook post apologizing to his teammates.

I'm not sure if that is true, but after the game he looked me right in the eye and told me, "Sir, we lost the game because of me."

Sorry James, you are wrong.

I asked him why he thought that?

He said: "My ankle got hurt last week and I didn't toughen up enough tonight."

Wrong again. The kid played his heart out.

He also said Lake Dallas' last offensive play was his fault as he felt he should have led the wide receiver more.

Wrong again. Let's face it. The ball was right in the receiver's hands.

You have to respect Franklin though for saying this, though. That is what leaders do.


Tyler Gabbert (6'0, 175, 4.70)
Ballwin, MO, ****, #7 player in Missouri

Via Chris Lee / StL Post-Dispatch

Bill C.: Back when Blaine Gabbert committed to Nebraska in the spring of 2007, Missouri fans consoled themselves by saying, "That's alright -- he's overrated.  His brother is the real talent."  Granted, we knew that was absurd even then, but there was at least a slight point to it -- when Big Gabbert got hurt midway through his senior season, Lil' Gabbert was able to take the reins and put together some solid stats as a sophomore.  Parkway West has not had much other talent beyond the Gabberts, but Tyler was able to lead the Longhorns (???) to a 7-3 season in 2008.  Of course, his senior season saw similar results as his brother's, and he comes to Columbia with a similar resume as his big brother: few results on the field with an over-matched supporting cast, but great camp performances and a strong recruiting profile.

So where does Tyler differ from Blaine?  Well, for starters, look at them side-by-side.  Whereas Blaine ended up being a 5-star recruit because of the athletic ability and potential he showed in a 6'5, 230-pound frame, Tyler is only in the 6'0, 180-pound neighborhood.  Tyler is not going to show us the cannon that Blaine has, but he has made it to this point with solid pocket presence and quick decision-making.  (That he still got a 4-star rating from Rivals despite his lack of size says a lot, I think.)  I hate comparing everybody to Chase Daniel (I've already done it to Glaser, and Ross did it to Franklin), but he's more Daniel than Blaine in his QB profile.

2010 vs 2009

Considering that Blaine Gabbert has the #1 spot completely and totally locked down, there sure is a lot to pay attention to in regard to the spring QB race.  Barring injury, we know what to expect in 2010, but after that is a complete tossup.  Will pro scouts become as enamored with BG's measurables as they were with Josh Freeman and project him as a First Round pick in the 2011 draft?  If so, will he jump after 2010?  And whether the future starts in 2011 or 2012, who will win the Franklin-Lil' Gabbert battle?  Will the loser transfer or change positions?  And what do Jimmy Costello or Ashton Glaser have to say about things?  Will they improve or get lost in the shuffle?

One thing is certain, however: the future at this position is really, really bright.  Obviously we hope that B. Gabbert returns in 2011, but if he doesn't it probably will not cripple the program.  The odds of either Franklin or T. Gabbert being successful are pretty high, and Mizzou really has begun to look like a "QB Factory" type of program.  From Brad Smith to Chase Daniel to Blaine Gabbert to Franklin/T. Gabbert, if one of the freshmen (or, technically, Costello or Glaser) are successful, that would make well over a decade of high-quality quarterback play.  It's pretty clear that recruits are already starting to notice (they did just sign two more 4-star QBs, didn't they?), and it goes without saying that this will likely continue to be the case.  Of all the issues Mizzou might or might not have in other areas of the field, QB is not one of them.

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