The Three Burning Questions train keeps a-rolling...
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
2008 Unit Ranking: #25 in the nation (#5 in the Big 12)
Projected WR Depth Chart
Danario Alexander (6'5, 215, Sr.)
Jared Perry (6'1, 180, Sr.)
Wes Kemp (6'4, 225, So.)
Jerrell Jackson (6'1, 190, So.)
T.J. Moe (6'0, 190, Fr.)?
L'Damian Washington (6'4, 175, Fr.)?
Gahn McGaffie (5'11, 185, RSFr.)
Brandon Gerau (6'0, 175, So.)
Rolandis Woodland (6'3, 200, RSFr.)
Projected TE Depth Chart
Andrew Jones (6'5, 245, So.)
Michael Egnew (6'6, 230, So.)
Jon Gissinger (6'3, 250, Sr.)
So...has a #1 WR emerged? Yes and no. By all accounts, Danario Alexander is looking faster and healthier than he has since August 2007, when, as Gabe Dearmond has pointed out multiple times, he and most press thought he was playing far better than either Will Franklin or Jeremy Maclin. (And as a reminder, a quick look at the box score from the 2007 Illinois game reminds you that the coaches kind of thought so too--Alexander had ten touches, while Maclin and Franklin combined for seven. Then Danario got hurt...for the first of many times.) If he's healthy and confident, he's competition for Dezmon Briscoe in the "pure explosiveness" department.
But, and here's where it may not be smart to pay too close attention to practice reports, Danario's had at least a little trouble catching Blaine Gabbert's passes. Simply reading this in the practice reports doesn't really worry me, but this was, at times, a bit of an issue last year too. He seems to catch the deep and intermediate balls pretty easily, but the shorter, more fired-in passes seem to give him trouble. And we throw a LOT of shorter, more fired-in passes...which, needless to say, Gabbert probably throws with quite a bit of fire. Hands are the single biggest issue with both Alexander and Wes Kemp, so while we should never read too much into practice reports (good or bad), there's at least a bit of a red flag here. It's hard to underestimate how much of a killer dropped passes can be to an offense, much less an offense led by a first-year starting quarterback.
But if Alexander doesn't struggle with the dropsies or get hurt again (one more injury, and he catches Kirk Farmer* for the career record, I think), he could absolutely be a "6-9 catches, 70-120 yards a game" type of player. And it sounds like there are enough other capable guys to benefit if Alexander's good enough to draw extra attention.
* That's my second Kirk Farmer reference in three days. What the hell?
The other candidate is T.J. Moe, who is smart and explosive...well, he will be explosive if he can ever get back to 100% after a foot injury. He's been making his way back for months now, and I think we all assume he will play if healthy...but at some point, he needs to be 100% in practice to prove what he can do.
On the other side of the equation, how are the other potential backups doing? Will there be a need to play both freshmen? Reviews have been mixed thus far. After a nice spring, Brandon Gerau has apparently been more-or-less invisible in August...which I guess could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. Rolandis Woodland struggled with his own dropsy issues, but it sounds like he's started to make some plays, which is a lovely sign. Gabe Dearmond has been talking up Woodland's ridiculous speed for a while now, but...well, Greg Bracey was really fast too. He hardly ever saw the field, though, because "ridiculously fast" doesn't naturally equate to "good wide receiver" (it does, however, equate to "badass res hall linebacker").
Beyond Gerau and Woodland, the other candidate to break into the rotation is Gahn McGaffie. He was threatening to lose his redshirt this time last year before injuries held him back, and while he's getting some reps in the return game, he hasn't been mentioned a whole lot in terms of receiving.
But back to the question at hand: just how much can they approximate the best tight end duo in Mizzou history? It would not be fair to compare them, as sophomores, to what Rucker and Coffman did in 2007, as a senior and a junior. But what about 2005, when Rucker was a sophomore, Coffman a freshman? That year, the two combined for 94 catches (tying for the team lead with 47 each), 1,070 yards, and 5 TDs with Brad Smith at quarterback. Can Jones and Eggo copy that? Why not? In a 12-game schedule, that's 7.8 catches per game, 11 yards per catch. At worst, I would expect 5-6 catches between them at 9-11 yards per catch, which isn't that far off. Between Jones, Jared Perry, Wes Kemp, and Derrick Washington, it appears that Blaine Gabbert has some serious bail-out options, which will be an awesome thing if bigger-play guys like Danario Alexander, L'Damian Washington, Rolandis Woodland, and Egnew can make good a handful of times a game.
2009 Mizzou Football Preview Series
- Part One: Blaine Gabbert and the Four-Year Precedent
- Part Two: Putting 2008 to Bed
- Part Three: My Guys
- Part Four: Offense - Beyond the Box Score
- Part Five: Defense - Beyond the Box Score
- Part Six: Quarterbacks
- Part Seven: Running Backs