RPT and I were recording a podcast Tuesday night, in which we addressed both the Ratliffe/Pressey signings and the upcoming spring game; it was sure to become the GREATEST. PODCAST. EVER. I even wasn't stuttering very much! Unfortunately, between a power outage at Casa Bill C. and a Mediacom outage when the power came back, it was never finished. It will forever live in the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Podcasting ... THE LOST TAPES" vault (we're just like Neil Young now!). So instead of getting your What to Watch For information in audio form, you'll have to settle for the written word. Below is a position-by-position look at what will be most interesting to follow on Saturday at 1pm.
Now, as always, let's set a few disclaimers right here at the very top: 1) This game will not be very entertaining; 2) Tamp down both your optimism and pessimism, as anything good or bad that happens ... also results in something good or bad for Mizzou; and 3) Don't overreact to any information you glean -- it will be another four months before these guys are officially practicing again, and a lot will change between now and then. Just sit back, enjoy what looks to be a lovely, cool, sunny day at Faurot Field, and bask in the glow of having football back in your life.
What's Glaser Got?
We heard early in spring practices that Ashton Glaser looked like a new man, much more confident and 'with it' than he was last spring or fall. He looked to challenge Jimmy Costello pretty hard for the backup QB slot. And instead, they've both been overtaken by James Franklin. The B&G Game is Glaser's final chance to impress until August, and he needs to have a nice afternoon. Now ... that doesn't mean he has to put up huge stats -- he'll either be running the #3 offense (stocked with walk-ons) against the #2 or #3 defense, or he'll be running the #2 offense against the #1 defense. Pure success isn't what will tell the tale -- just competence and adaptability. A couple of big plays wouldn't hurt, however.
OMG RPT GETS TO SEE JAMES FRANKLIN IN A MIZZOU UNIFORM!!!!1!!!!!
Sorry, had to do it. And to say the least, RPT is far from the only one excited about seeing what Franklin can do for the first time.
Time to Shine, Blaine.
Remember last year, when Blaine Gabbert had a stellar, steady spring, but he struggled in the B&G Game (without four of his top six receiving targets), leading to an entire summer of "Gabbert was mediocre in the spring" talk? I don't think any of us will adapt our expectations if he's iffy, but after a slow start to the spring, he and the Mizzou offense have gained momentum after Spring Break, and I'd love to see him put up some "Chase Daniel in '07" type numbers. Unlike last spring, he'll have almost a full cast available to him -- virtually everybody but Andrew Jones will be healthy and in uniform -- so, just for fun, let's see him start some buzz.
A New Derrick Washington?
Apparently D-Wash has lost 15 pounds and looks faster/quicker than ever. Does he still run as strong as he has in the fast, and can he still fall forward on a regular basis? Does extra quickness negate the need for that? D-Wash is one of the few senior contributors on this offense -- let's see what he does with a leadership role.
A Call to Arms for Kendial Lawrence
Ghtd36 is officially on record that he's wavering in his Kendial worship. (Everybody, together now: "FAIR-WEATHER FAN!!!") Regardless of the thoughts of Lawrence's biggest fan, this is certainly an opportunity for him to step forward. This is amazing to say, but this team appears relatively set, not only for 2010, but also for 2011 -- one of the biggest battles of next spring could be for the starting RB job Washington leaves. Mizzou fans need to have confidence that somebody strong is waiting in the wings, be it Lawrence or De'Vion Moore, and while we have a decent idea of Moore's ceiling at this point, we're less clear on Lawrence. Not that a spring game can impact 12-month expectations all that much, but ... I won't complain if Kendial breaks off a long run or two ... would you?
Okay, how good is Rolandis Woodland?
Over the past two years, we've repeatedly heard about Woodland's athletic potential ... and it has barely translated to results on the field. He has reportedly had a mostly-great spring and emerged as a reasonably steady weapon and likely starter in the WR corps. But now we actually get to see him play instead of just relying on practice reports. Whatchu got, Ro?
Okay, how good is T.J. Moe?
To a man, I'm pretty sure we all expected Moe to show us quite a bit last fall, especially after the coaching staff rushed him to the field despite his a) being a true freshman, and b) spending a good chunk of August injured. He saw the field quite a bit in Mizzou's first couple of games, but he dropped more passes than he caught, and he was relegated to special teams duty for most of the rest of the season. If Mizzou is going to challenge Nebraska in the fall, either Woodland or Moe needs to take steps toward becoming the real deal, and ... well, it would set us at ease if one of them showed off for us on Saturday.
It's Now or Never, Gahn.
We've heard a lot from Woodland and Moe this spring ... and next to nothing from McGaffie. This is a problem for him, as the reinforcements (in the form of, Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser) are arriving pretty soon. Now's the time for him to show the coaches (and us) what he can do ... otherwise I'm not sure when or how he gets another shot.
Okay, how good is Michael Egnew?
We sure have heard his name a lot this spring, and in pretty concrete, "He's going to be a huge weapon this fall" terms. The problem is, we heard this last year too. And then, with help from Danario Alexander, he disappeared completely. Now, despite a pair of great springs, he enters his junior season with seven career catches and 47 career yards (career long reception: 11 yards). Four fewer catches and 105 fewer yards than this guy, ahem. It's a put-up-or-shut-up season for Eggo, and I'm really interested to see what he brings to the table as the bailout option he was supposed to be last year.
Hmm ... that was a pretty harsh anti-Eggo paragraph, I guess, and that wasn't really the intent. Can he be as good as we've heard? Of course. But we've heard the "He's next in line after Rucker, Coffman, Alexander, etc." line a lot this spring, and ... all I can really say is, Rucker, Coffman and Alexander had proven a lot more after two years than Eggo has. He could be amazing this fall, but he's playing a mighty game of Catch-Up here. Prove me wrong, Mike.
Is Alex Sanders a Threat for Playing Time?
I remember seeing Sanders' high school film after he committed to Mizzou. He was more of a wide receiver at Springfield Glendale, but he showed nice hands, a lanky frame, and the ability to move well in traffic. I was really intrigued by his potential, but then he blew out his knee in his senior year, redshirted last year, and aside from some nice catches in bowl practices, he really hasn't been heard from since. In the #3 offense (where I assume he'll be spending his time on Saturday), he could be a main target of Glaser, Franklin, Tyler Gabbert, and Costello, and I'd like to see him getting an opportunity to show some potential.
Don't Be Noticed
I'd love to say I'm curious to see how Jack Meiners handles Aldon Smith after having to face him all spring (Elvis Fisher has been out this spring, and Meiners has faced Agent Smith's wrath as much as anybody in Fisher's absence), and I'd love to say I want to get a really good read on the battles going on for the starting guard positions ... but in the spring game, the only time I really notice the offensive line is when something awful happens. I want to think back after the game and realize something like, "You know, I never saw Gabbert face any pressure from the right/left side," or "Hey, no holding penalties!" Get noticed before then, and something probably went wrong.
(Of course, those capable of more detailed OL analysis will hopefully have better feedback to give on Saturday ... RPT, I'm looking in your direction ...)
By the way, the battle at offensive guard really does appear to have been as tenacious as we thought it might be heading into the spring. With Austin Wuebbels fighting back spasms and J.T. Beasley quitting the team, there has been plenty of opportunity for guys like Travis Ruth and Justin Britt to take on more entrenched upper-classmen like Jayson Palmgren, and they seem to have fared rather well.
Hey Backups, Show Us Something
Marcus Malbrough is out for Saturday (unfortunately), and Jacquies Smith is questionable, meaning the backups will get plenty of time to run with the big dogs. If Brad Madison, Michael Sam, or Brayden Burnett wanted to give us a pleasant surprise, I'm all for it (of course, this clashes directly with my "Don't get burned, offensive line" wish).
Give Us a Taste, Agent Smith
Obviously I want to see that OL's like Jack Meiners have learned from having to guard you all spring, and so I don't necessarily want you to go completely crazy and rack up 12 sacks or something (at least not during 1's vs 1's) ... but one amazing play would be pretty nice to see.
Last year, during what was supposedly a neck-and-neck competition between Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno to determine who would start next to Jaron Baston, Hamilton shined in the spring game. He was potentially the second-best performer on the field that day, aside from Aldon Smith. A year later, he's an entrenched starter after a strong sophomore season. Now, it's somebody else's turn to make their presence felt. Since Marvin Foster is more of a myth than a player at this point (I'm still guardedly optimistic about what he might do in August if he can get, and stay, healthy), the onus falls onto Resonno, Jimmy Burge, George White and walk-on Brendan Donaldson to show us something. Whereas I want the OLs to be visible, I don't want that (entirely) from the DTs. And I don't want to head into August still hoping that Foster has a breakthrough month to assuage some of my DT concerns.
One-up Each Other
While we may worry about some defensive units, LB is not really a concern. We've got a wealth of options here, and I want to see a "Can you top this?" battle. Will Ebner hit a receiver this hard, Luke Lambert ... can you do better? Donovan Bonner sniffed out a screen and blew it up, Zaviar Gooden ... one-up him. Show us why we're so giddy about you, guys.
Live Up to My Hype, Matt White
I mentioned in January's Walkthrough series that I had been unreasonably optimistic about Matt White (based on his measurables and a couple of quotes, and nothing more) for quite a while, and that blind faith has paid off so far this spring. He has been playing a good portion of the time with the #1's, and now I can't wait to see why. If he lives up to my blind hype, he will be one helluva player, and it might as well start on Saturday.
Okay, there is not the same amount of pressure on Edwards, Steeples and Hobson as there is on somebody like Gahn McGaffie, but the fact is, they appear to be locked into backup roles this year behind two starting senior CBs, and starting this fall, the reinforcements arrive in the form of Tristen Holt, Xavier Smith and E.J. Gaines. If they want to position themselves for starting roles in 2011, they need to start proving it before the freshmen arrive. For Hobson, who as a soon-to-be junior is a year ahead of Edwards and Steeples, he needs to make a move immediately. He is a strong, physical presence at cornerback, and with the coaching staff supposedly installing a few more coverages that utilize his skill set, the table is set for him to at least become a nickel back candidate this fall. If he doesn't do it now, he may never get another chance.
Pay No Attention Whatsoever.
In past years, we've seen both Jake Harry and Grant Ressel struggle mightily in punting and kicking, respectively, in the spring. If the kickers/punters struggle on Saturday, facing no real pressure or in-game situations, I'm not even going to think twice about it.
And needless to say, return men catching kicks and returning them with no tacklers on the field might not exactly show us too much either. Paying attention to special teams in the spring is a complete waste of time ... though making the same "GO, (RANDOM RETURN MAN)!! YOU'VE GOT NOTHING BUT DAYLIGHT AHEAD OF YOU!!" jokes that we make every spring are a must.