Thursday, August 5, 2010
Opening camp: Missouri
By David Ubben
Schedule: Practice starts today
What’s new: Not much, and that's a good thing. Missouri's coaching staff is intact and the team lost just three starters from a season ago. Two of those starters were leaders on last year's team (receiver Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon), and replacing them will be key for Missouri to make a run at its third North title in four years.
Key battle: The secondary returns all four starters, but junior Kenji Jackson enters camp as the strong safety over last year's starter, senior Jarrell Harrison, who had two minor run-ins with the law this summer for shoplifting and trespassing. Missouri doesn't have a lot of battles for starting positions, but Jackson and Harrison should be the most exciting and impactful. Missouri gave up the second-most passing yards of any team in the Big 12 in 2009, and the back line has to improve for Missouri to improve on its eight-win season in 2009.
New on the scene: Blaine Gabbert's top target. Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both have experience and could share the job pretty equally of catching balls from Gabbert, one of the conference's best quarterbacks. Alexander's 1,781 yards last season were more than any receiver in college football, but Kemp and Jackson could both realistically top 1,000 yards.
Breaking out: Receiver T.J. Moe or tight end Michael Egnew. Moe will be working the slot and had one of the best springs of any Missouri player. Egnew caught just three passes a season ago, but should be featured more prominently in the screen game like past tight ends at Missouri like Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman.
Don’t forget about: Kicker Grant Ressel. He missed just one kick (26-of-27) last season -- a 43-yarder in a downpour against Nebraska -- and eases the pressure on the offense to put the ball in the end zone deep in opponent's territory. If it doesn't, Ressel's pretty close to a sure thing in making sure three points get on the board.
All eyes on: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He's got an argument as the conference's best quarterback, but he'll try to prove it this season. Former Missouri star Chase Daniel established himself as a star and Heisman finalist his junior year. Gabbert will try to do the same.
Quoting: "When you look at our program, and I constantly evaluate everything we're doing, I think we've made a lot of progress. There's a consistency of winning that we have. There's a lot of things we have to accomplish, and I want to win at a higher level on a more consistent basis. So I think we look back to evaluate, and then you look forward. You know, I just want to continue to build our program and raise the standards of the winning." -- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel
K_Rutland Fall camp is finally here. I can smell the practice grass in the air! Time to work...