More Spring Game coverage? More Spring Game coverage.
The Stable Is Strong. Missouri does not have a true feature back, but as we found out in 2010, that doesn't mean much. Marcus Murphy provided hints of why I think he's the perfect type of back for this offense. He's a decisive one-cut-and-go runner, and perhaps more importantly for whoever ends up winning the QB job, he's fantastic out of the backfield in the passing game (egregiously open-field bobble on Saturday notwithstanding). Mizzou will still be labeled as an air-it-out offense by national media, but if the last few games of 2010 and the early indicators of 2011 are a trend, Mizzou's rushing attack may have as much (if not more) impact on the offense's success for the first time since 2005.
A Nickel For Your Thoughts. The development of Missouri's primary defensive packages appears to be one of the most overlooked storylines of the offseason. Whereas Missouri played quite a bit of nickel in the William Moore era, we saw Mizzou stay in its base 4-3 in passing downs thanks in part to the versatility of Andrew Gachkar. This Spring, the Matt White/Tavon Bolden duo appears to have brought the nickel back en vogue. Is this Steckel compensating for the fact that he has 827 linebackers injured right now, or is this a glimpse into the 2011 defensive toolkit?
Disturbing Labels That Now Make Sense. During his recruiting, coaches and reporters called E.J. Gaines' highlight tapes and cover skills "orgasmic." From the short teases we've gotten, that uncomfortable label is starting to make more sense for the following reasons: 1) Gaines is fast, physical, and has a great jump on the ball, and 2) some people are really into defensive backs.
Kony Ealy. Yes, please.
The Position Battle Everyone Is Watching. How about that hotly contested defensive tackle battle, eh? Still no answers here, but a strong push in fall ball from the Foster/Vincent contingent would be most welcomed.
The Position Battle You Should Consider. So, apparently, Missouri is deciding between two quarterbacks? Everyone saw what we saw Saturday, and everyone has read what we've read throughout this Spring. By all accounts, the two quarterbacks couldn't have been more dead even statistically in Spring Ball. Cue the tweet from purveyor of excellence Dave Matter: "I'll have more on in Sunday's paper: In 4 scrimmages, completion % and QB ratings for Franklin & Gabbert were separated by mere decimals"
Saturday is in no way reflective of grander implications, but Franklin obviously appeared to have the upper hand for the afternoon. With that said, there's still a number of concerns. The receivers did a fairly solid job on Saturday of handling passes that were in the ballpark but out of the strike zone, so to speak. Missouri fans have been spoiled by five consecutive seasons of quarterback play with an almost preternatural ability to hit receivers in stride on short routes over the middle. For one afternoon, Gabbert and Franklin looked shaky in this regard. The season opener against Miami University is one thing, but the LAST thing you want to do in week two is put a ball behind and/or too high for a receiver over the middle. Why, you might ask? Meet Vontaze Burfict.
Remember, We Call Them "Special Forces" Here. I think at least three times, our colleague The Beef noted prior to punts that "Hey, if the punt sucks, remember it's into the wind." Then Trey Barrow ignored all disclaimers and knocked the hell out of the ball anyway.
The Parts In Which I Disagree With Bill C. ENGAGE BULLETED THOUGHTS:
-- Has Jacquies Smith ever been really noticeable in a Spring Game?
-- I wouldn't classify the Receiver Trio (we REALLY need a name for the Lucas/Hunt/Sasser group, not for the sake of being cute, but just for brevity) as unnoticeable in a bad way, but if I did, I'm not sure I would fault them for it. Their opportunities were limited, but they otherwise acquitted themselves well. Lucas once again showed his tremendous ability to catch the ball away from his body (again, a welcomed trait for developing QBs). Hunt made a nice play cutting all the way across the field before eventually being caught from behind by a D-Tackle.