Friday, March 11, 2011
Notes/observations from Mizzou practice
By ESPN.com staff
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A chilly, blustery day meant practice indoors for Missouri on Thursday, where the Tigers took the field in shorts and helmets for about two hours. Here are a few notes and observations from what I saw:
It's so early in the competition, and I saw just a small portion of what the coaches will ultimately use to make the decision, so it's not prudent to make any sweeping generalizations about the quarterbacks at Missouri. There's no question that James Franklin is a step ahead of the other two at this point, and looked the part on Thursday.
That said, Missouri has three quarterbacks who look capable of running its offense well enough to win games. You look around the Big 12 and not many schools can say that. At least a few schools don't even have one.
They all had some forgettable throws in team drills; bad decisions, a ball behind a receiver, etc. But all three showed flashes of what they could be. Franklin looks sharp on tight out routes and finding seams down the middle. Offensive coordinator David Yost also was complimentary of his deep ball, which he didn't show off a ton in practice. All three have the physical tools to make all the throws, but consistency is what will set them apart. I'll have more on the race next week with plenty of input from Yost, coach Gary Pinkel and Franklin, but it's still very, very early in the race.
Plenty of balls hit the ground, way more than you'd see in a practice with Chase Daniel or Blaine Gabbert, but that's what you'd expect at this point. There's lots of growth ready to happen for the Tigers' quarterbacks, and for the coaching staff, there's certainly some excitement at getting to see that happen.
- Kendial Lawrence looked like the most polished route-runner of the running backs. Missouri doesn't throw to its running backs very often, but that's encouraging, and for a young quarterback, an additional short option could be a nice asset. The linebackers had a ton of trouble covering Lawrence, and that could mean more touches in situations where the running back's main function is catching passes, which could be valuable in a crowded Missouri backfield. Like I said a couple days ago, my money is still on sophomore Henry Josey to become the team's leading rusher, but offering something different could be a big boost.
- For what it's worth, Missouri has a fresh Big 12 North champions banner hanging in its indoor facility. Facts are facts, and Missouri finished first in the Big 12 North last year, but considering all the talk on this blog lately about things along those lines, my thoughts on the issue are pretty clear. I'm sure any Nebraska fans who come across this post will be thrilled to hear about the banner.
- It's comical to see Zaviar Gooden run with the rest of the linebackers on the field. The difference in speed between him and others is wide. "I don't think there's anyone in our league that can run as fast as he can, at linebacker," Pinkel said. As someone who's seen a lot of linebackers across the Big 12 last season, I'd agree. The hard part for Gooden, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound converted safety who finished the year with 30 tackles, comes now. "He's got that tremendous speed. Now you've got to see it carry over to the field," Pinkel said. The potential for a big year is there, and Gooden could blossom into a star this season, but he'll have to solidify a starting spot and make plays to do it. He doesn't have the instinct and nose for the ball of a Lavonte David, but the physical tools are there to make him one of the league's rare talents. How much of that talent becomes production is up to him.