Spring football games are, more often than not, meaningless. With just about every Power 5 spring game now televised (in some capacity), coaches go bland, go vanilla — go boring — for fear of giving opponents more film to watch.
Competition? That’s usually settled by the penultimate (and normally closed) scrimmage of spring, at least in Missouri’s case.
But you know what? Let’s ignore all that and try to glean some insights, trends and tidbits from past Missouri spring games.
Ahead of the 2019 Black and Gold Game (April 13, 3 p.m. CT), we’re going to take a look at a few key story lines, and see if anything similar has happened in Missouri spring games over the last decade or so.
Let’s start at quarterback, where Missouri will be breaking in a new starting quarterback for the first time in three spring games. There’s no competition — and, really, there hasn’t been a truly open competition since the 2013 spring season. It’s Kelly Bryant or bust.
So, that being said, how have other Missouri quarterbacks performed in the Black and Gold game prior to their first year as a starter for the Tigers?
(Yes, Kelly Bryant is not a first-time starter. He is, however, a first-time starter for Missouri.)
Chase Daniel, 2006: 11-12, 120 yards, 2 TDs (Season stats: 287-452, 3527 yards,
Ah, the good ol’ days. That efficiency. That swagger. After what Daniel did in limited duty in 2005, his performance wasn’t really a surprise — but it certainly set the stage for the next three years in Columbia.
2006 season stats: 287-452 passing, 3527 yards, 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Blaine Gabbert, 2009: 9-17, 93 yards, 1 INT
Gabbert didn’t have the best of days in the 2009 spring game, but he did have a solid 2009 campaign. However, the inconsistencies of that day were certainly more of a hint of where he would struggle, when he did, over the next two seasons.
2009 season stats: 262-445 passing, 3593 yards, 24 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
James Franklin, 2011: 13-21, 116 yards, 2 TDs
This is the unfortunate side of spring games, where rushing stats for quarterbacks are either (a) non-existent or (b) meaningless, because of contact rules. So we got one glimpse of Franklin — solid accuracy, careful with the ball — but didn’t get a taste of him becoming Frank the Tank.
(I miss you, James — he added, desperately.)
2011 season stats: 238-376 passing, 2865 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; 981 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns
Maty Mauk, 2014: 11-15, 129 yards; 1 rushing touchdown
This might be the first of the group whose spring performance wasn’t indicative of future performance. Mauk would never complete more than 65-percent of his passes in any of his starts, and finished his Missouri career by completing 52.7-percent of his passes.
2014 season stats: 221-414 passing, 2648 yards, 25 touchdowns, 13 interceptions; 373 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns
Drew Lock, 2016: 9-13, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns
The second-best performance of the group, behind Daniel’s 2006 Black and Gold game. Lock flashed the big arm that we grew accustomed to over the ensuing three seasons, and in this game, didn’t show the inconsistent stretches or forced passes.
2016 season stats: 237-434, 3399 yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
What does this mean for Kelly Bryant? Almost assuredly nothing! But it’s another reminder of the pretty remarkable stretch of quarterback play in Columbia, dating back to Brad Smith in 2005.
With the exception of the 2015 season, Missouri hasn’t had any noticeable down years at the position in the past 15 years.