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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tyler Gabbert grabs co-No. 1 QB spot

By David Ubben

Missouri's quarterback race has officially heated up.

Tyler Gabbert outperformed his competition, Ashton Glaser and James Franklin, at the first scrimmage of the spring for Missouri on Saturday, and as a result, debuted on Tuesday as the co-No. 1 quarterback with Franklin.

Last spring, Gabbert was the No. 5 quarterback when he enrolled early along with Franklin as a freshman. Franklin won the No. 2 job and played while Gabbert redshirted and started the spring at No. 3 behind Franklin and Glaser.

Now, it looks like he's neck-and-neck with Franklin to succeed Blaine Gabbert as Missouri's quarterback.

Coach Gary Pinkel downplayed the move, but it's obvious Gabbert has made an impression early.

"We looked at all the practices and scrimmages," Pinkel told reporters after Tuesday's practice, downplaying the big-picture impact of Gabbert's performance on Saturday. "There’s a lot of competition. That’s good. It’s going to be very competitive. Someone’s going to have to pull away. But there’s a long way to go here, you know. A lot of things are going to happen. They’re all great competitors."

What looked like an interesting spring in Columbia has lived up to its billing. Even if Gabbert wins the race, I'd still expect Franklin to get a good amount of playing time. As a freshman, Franklin spelled Blaine Gabbert in a role as a runner.

Chase Daniel did the same for Brad Smith as a freshman and Gabbert did the same for Daniel when he was a freshman in 2008.

That's consistent with what offensive coordinator David Yost told me during my visit to Missouri earlier this month. If a backup quarterback offers something the starter can't duplicate, it's worth getting them on the field. Daniel was a more accurate passer than Smith. Franklin was a much better runner between the tackles than Blaine Gabbert. Yost, in fact, compared him to Tim Tebow. The comparison stretched only as far as Franklin's ability to move the pile as a powerful runner and find creases between the tackles, but even though all three quarterbacks have decent wheels, Franklin, at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, has size and power the other two lack.

Like Pinkel said, there's a long, long way to go. At this point, it seems unlikely that Missouri will definitively settle much at the position by the end of spring, but like you read last week, the players will decide.