Extreme Makeover: Missouri Football

Eric HobbsCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 29:  Receiver Jared Perry #4 of the Missouri Tigers reacts after making a catch short of a first down during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on November 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The past two seasons have arguably been the "golden age" for football at the University of Missouri.

Back-to-back Big 12 North titles, 22 wins, Cotton and Alamo Bowl wins, and a Heisman finalist, all for a program that has had its share of bumps in the road.

Those teams were lead by faces that are now gone. The biggest losses are Mackey award winner Chase Coffman, 2007 Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, and the soon to be first round draft pick, Jeremy Maclin.

Mizzou will return just 11 starters on both sides of the ball, and will rely on young talent to continue the program's success.

Blaine Gabbert will take the reins, but can he run the spread offense with the precision that Chase Daniel was able to? No one is as accurate as Chase Daniel (up until mid season 2008), but Gabbert has the arm strength and size that Daniel simply did not have. The new quarterback is five inches taller, and he can throw the football further.

Gabbert will have one crutch with which to lean on, that being junior Derrick Washington. Washington ran for over 1000 yards, scored 17 touchdowns in his sophomore season, and could contend for all-conference honors.

Sophomore Andrew Jones will be charged with replacing the all-time leader in catches for a tight end, and the defending Mackey Award winner, Chase Coffman.

Jones played enough to be used to the college game in his freshman year, and is firmly entrenched as the starter. While his hands are not quite as good as Coffman's, they are very good and he has a similar build and athletic ability.

The biggest weakness of last year's team was the secondary, and going into fall camp, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland appear to be slated as starting cornerbacks, while Kenji Jackson is expected to start at safety.

The other safety position could go to a number of people, including JUCO transfer Jerrell Harrison and Hardy Ricks.

The makeup of the Missouri Tigers is totally diffferent than it was a year ago, and no one knows what to make of it. The schedule presents itself with anywhere from five to 10 wins.

If this team can make it to a bowl and not have a complete dropoff from the prior two seasons, Mizzou football may be here to stay.