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2011 Missouri Football Preview: Quarterbacks

2011 Missouri Football Preview
Analysis: Dave Matter
Opponents: Miami (Ohio) | Arizona State | Western Illinois

You may recognize large portions of these unit walkthroughs from the pieces we wrote last March. But a) they're not completely the same, and b) even if they were, you haven't read them in five months anyway.

Missouri fans are starting to fancy the program as a bit of a quarterback factory, and the last three triggermen to stroll through Columbia have done very little to hurt that reputation. The standard has been set for Gary Pinkel’s quarterbacks, but what exactly does that standard look like?

248-for-421 (59%) passing, 3,151 yards, 22 TD, 8 INT; 148 rushes, 537 yards, 5 TD

That is the average of Brad Smith’s, Chase Daniel’s and Blaine Gabbert’s statistics from their first seasons as Missouri starting quarterback, and it puts the bar pretty high. But though an even split of Smith, Daniel and Gabbert is an extremely lofty aspiration, the combination of those three skill sets may aptly describe the unique combination of talents held by Missouri’s presumptive starter.

James Franklin (6’2, 220, So., Corinth, TX)

James Franklin combines the zone read rushing threat Missouri has largely lacked since at least 2006 (and, to be frank, 2005) with a Daniel-esque deft touch in throwing extremely catchable passes. The physical tools appear to be in place, but what stands between his ears may be the difference just how high Missouri can climb in 2011.

Depending on which information you choose to process, it isn’t difficult to see Missouri’s offense, as it is currently constituted, running just as smoothly under James Franklin as under Blaine Gabbert. The zone reads and options that are a staple of the offense should be more effective with Franklin. After all, with limited sample size in 2010, they already were. The underneath and sideline passes that define the Missouri attack should still be there. For an offense much more reliant on efficiency than explosiveness, the fact that Franklin does not have the same caliber of hand cannon that Gabbert possesses should not be a significant hindrance.

Outside of a few drives against Colorado, Mizzou fans never got to see Franklin with the full package at his arsenal. In his two non-garbage time drives, one ended in a touchdown. The other ended in a red zone interception. Despite the encouraging fact that Mizzou was 4-for-4 in situations of third-and-seven or more with Franklin behind center, Tiger fans rightfully reserve a grain of salt to see Franklin’s capabilities with games still on the line.

So obviously any optimism should be tempered. We don’t know about his ability to throw downfield, since he wasn’t really asked to. We don’t know how defenses will scout and react to him. And no matter how well-adjusted the astonishingly polite kid from North Texas seems, we don’t actually know how he might do under the spotlight until he is actually put there.

#16 Ashton Glaser (6'0, 225, RS So., Springdale, AR)

Defections have done nothing but toy with the expectations and responsibilities of Ashton Glaser. He came to Mizzou as somewhat of the odd man out in his own recruiting class, as he was a side attraction to the epic flameout better known as The Blaine Dalton Show. He entered the Spring with an outside shot at No. 1, a fight for No. 2, and a floor of No. 3. Just as soon as he seemed to back into third string and limited expectations, the defection of Tyler Gabbert once again brought the development of Glaser as a valid option into the forefront.

One year ago, Glaser was in line to lay claim to the No. 2 spot ultimately seized by Franklin. But even despite losing the job, in one offseason, Glaser grew from "smart kid who couldn’t quite put it all together" to "competent option" at quarterback. Reporters raved about the leap he made as he became more and more comfortable as Mizzou’s triggerman. Glaser is in the unique position of never having inspired confidence nor never having inspired doubt. By all accounts, he knows the offense well, but no one can attest to his physical performance in live fire until the bullets start flying.

Jimmy Costello (6'3, 220, RS Sr., Liberty, MO)

Welcome back, Mr. Costello. By this time next year, Missouri’s No. 2 guy from 2009 will have the distinct and almost dubious honor of having been recognized at Senior Day twice (that’s two more than Jeremy Maclin got), as Costello initially left the Missouri program by deciding to forgo his fifth year of eligibility. But with the transfer of Tyler Gabbert, Costello was asked to return and help fill out Missouri’s depth behind center, and being the team player he had already proven to be, he accepted.

His legacy in Columbia may be that the coaching staff felt Blaine Gabbert at 60 percent was a better option than a fully healthy Costello. But the back end of Missouri’s stable needed a serious shot of stability heading into fall practices, and Missouri can do a lot worse than Costello, whose Tiger tenure traces all the way back to the Daniel era.


Corbin Berkstresser (6'3, 225, Fr., Lee's Summit, MO)

In the middle of June 2009, while Missouri was seemingly attempting to put the pieces together for their vaunted 2010 recruiting class, they got a commitment … for the class of 2011. Corbin Berkstresser attended Missouri’s one-day Kansas City camp at the beginning of June, received an offer, committed, and BANG (as Mike Kelly would say), Mizzou was done recruiting quarterbacks for that class.

If you want proof that Gary Pinkel, Dave Yost, and staff know what they’re looking for in a quarterback, just look at Berkstresser. He threw for just 1,400 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore, and he got a Mizzou offer anyway. Despite solid size, he received just a 3-star rating from Rivals (though Chase Daniel’s success would indicate that there are worse things than being named a 3-star prospect by Rivals). A year and a half later, Berkstresser went out and threw for 3,300 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions as a senior. For all of Pinkel’s well-known faults, evaluating quarterback talent isn’t one of them.

Berkstresser comes to Missouri at a time in which the pressure on his growth is hard to quantify. Though he will be given every opportunity to win the job, most are operating under the assumption that the gig belongs to Franklin. Instead, Berkstresser must develop rapidly, as he’ll immediately be thrown into the fire to battle Glaser, whose familiarity with the offense and the receiving personnel should give him a leg up on the true freshman.

(More about Berkstresser later today.)

Kortland Webb (5'10, 160, Fr., St. Louis, MO)

The odds aren't particularly good that this preferred walk-on from Ladue Horton Watkins High School will ever see the field, but he shouldn't be completely counted out. Webb was a dynamic, entertaining weapon as a senior, and there is at least a small chance that he will be able to carve out a niche for himself, if (probably) not at quarterback, then elsewhere. He is, at the very least, worth mentioning.

2011 vs 2010

Two things are certain regarding Missouri’s 2011 crop of quarterbacks:

1. There is so much to be excited about. Franklin really did show us glimpses of each of Missouri’s last three star quarterbacks -- Smith, Daniel and Gabbert -- in his limited playing time. He has toughness, running ability, nice touch, and perhaps some serious third-down moxie. Franklin has significant upside, and with such a veteran supporting cast, optimistic Missouri fans will have plenty of reason for being, well, optimistic.

2. There is so much still unknown. We almost take good quarterback play for granted at Mizzou, but it’s never guaranteed. Blaine Gabbert had his flaws, but he was a known quantity. Heading into 2011 with a veteran quarterback was a very appealing thought. But now Mizzou has to roll the dice again.