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Spring Football Update: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The switch has been flipped from basketball to football, and I figure the best way to dip our toes back in the water is to revisit my 2009 Walkthrough series from January and see what has or hasn't changed since then.  We move now to WRs and TEs.

We'll start with the bigger, slower guys, as I want to end with WRs.

Tight Ends

Photo from The Trib's Gerik Parmele

If Jones is the relatively known quantity, Michael Egnew is the wild card.  With Danario Alexander hurt, Egnew spent the first few weeks doing a reasonably credible wide receiver impersonation before moving back down to #3 TE on the depth chart after Alexander got rolling.  Egnew, who clearly needs a nickname...Eggo or something...was a solid downfield blocker and effort guy in his time on the field, but when you watch him play, you quickly start thinking two things: 1) Damn, this guy needs to put on about 20 pounds, and 2) Damn, this guy could be one ridiculously athletic tight end. 

If Andrew Jones is in the Martin Rucker mold of tight end, Egnew is the longer, leaner Coffman model.  That's where I'm going to stop any comparison of anybody to Coffman, but those are the roles Jones and Egnew could play if both continue to improve on the field.  I'm excited about Egnew's upside, but I'm much less sure of his becoming a guaranteed contributor.

What's Changed?  Not much of anything, actually.  Andrew Jones is still the steady, 7-yards-on-3rd-and-6 guy who will keep the chains moving for Blaine Gabbert and the Mizzou offense.  Meanwhile, Michael Egnew is getting every chance in the world to prove that he can be a viable part of this offense.  Eggo (is it catching on yet?) caught eight passes for 68 yards at last Saturday's scrimmage and appears to be attempting to fill the redzone void left by Chase Coffman.  News is encouraging with these two.

Also potentially encouraging: have you noticed how many times walk-on Beau Brinkley's name has been mentioned in practice reports?  Quite a few.  Granted, you have to take everything related to spring football with a grain of salt, but it does seem as if he could at least be a competent option if somebody above him gets hurt.

Tight ends have been the main difference between Missouri's spread attack and everybody else's.  Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker added an element of size and toughness not always associated with the spread, and it made Mizzou a unique force.  Clearly we have yet to find out if tight ends can be as dynamic in the Missouri offense as in years pass, but in Egnew and Jones, Gabbert will have pretty solid weapons to soften up the middle of the defense and exploit mismatches.

Expected Spring Finish
1. Andrew Jones (So)
2. Michael Egnew (So)
3. Jon Gissinger (Sr)
4. Beau Brinkley (So)

We've reviewed three units thus far and have come across only two seniors: a walk-on RB (Shawn Scott) and a TE (Giss) who doesn't contribute a whole lot on the field.  Building for 2010-11, baby.

Wide Receivers

Photo from PowerMizzou's Dan Turner
There's a lot of talent, athleticism and youth in this group, and while there are a lot of candidates for #2 and #3, the difference between an okay season and a run at a third-straight North title could be the emergence of a #1.

What's Changed?  In this case, not much has changed either, and that's not necessarily good.  With Jared Perry and Danario Alexander out due to minor injury, lots of WRs have gotten 1st-string reps, and some have played well, particularly Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp.  However, the hopes of finding a true #1 guy don't seem to have been met just yet.

To be sure, there are lots of names in the mix right now.  We know the elders, Perry and Alexander, will be pretty reliable targets, as will Jackson.  Kemp struggled with his hands in the fall, but he seems to have improved significantly.  Plus, soon-to-be former walk-on Brandon Gerau has apparently done a wonderful Tommy Saunders impersonation thus far.  If variety's the spice of life, then Blaine Gabbert will...

...actually, that analogy was going to suck.  We'll just say Gabbert will have lots of targets.  The problem is, the hands corps still needs a) a go-to guy (maybe that's Jones?  Alexander?), and b) a homerun threat.  Jackson is fast and may end up being that threat (when he did see action in 2008, he was playing the Maclin role, which shows that the staff does think of him as something of a dangerous runner), but the main hopes for a homerun in the spring (for me, at least) were Rolandis Woodland and Gahn McGaffie, neither of whom seem to have distinguised themselves much.  By that, I mean I haven't read their names very often.  Woodland had a nice, long catch in Saturday's scrimmage, and while that's encouraging, it's also the first time I've read his name this spring.

I really want to see something encouraging from the WRs at next Saturday's Black & Gold game.  Aside from the obvious (QB play), that's the unit to which I'll be paying closest attention.  Including Jones, Egnew and RBs, the list of decent receivers to whom Gabbert may be able to throw reliably in the fall is in the double digits.  But one of the keys to a good offense is eating up larger chunks of the field whenever possible.  This offense will have hands and variety, but I'm less sure about the explosiveness just yet.

Expected Spring Finish
1. Jerrell Jackson (So)
2. Danario Alexander (Sr)
3. Jared Perry (Sr)
4. Wes Kemp (So)
5. Rolandis Woodland (RSFr)
6. Brandon Gerau (So)
7. Gahn McGaffie (RSFr)

On this list we see the first two senior contributors listed at any skill position.