Mizzou Campus Voice: Tiger Fans Should Exercise Caution

Peter FleischerSenior Writer ISeptember 6, 2009

In the last 24 hours, I've heard it all.

Blaine Gabbert is better than Chase Daniel or Brad Smith.

Blaine Gabbert is actually the LOVE CHILD of Chase Daniel's poise and Smith's athleticism.

Blaine Gabbert is the next Tim Tebow.

You can already pencil Blaine Gabbert in as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Easy now, Tiger fans. Gabbert looked fantastic yesterday against Illinois, but let's pump the brakes a little bit before we anoint him as The Chosen One.

Gabbert's debut was one of the most impressive performances of college football's opening weekend. He didn't turn the ball over and excelled in every facet of the game. But, Illinois might end up being a pretty bad defensive team. Their inexperienced safeties, notably senior Donsay Hardeman, were completely out of position half the time yesterday. 

Ron Zook routinely has this team overrated, but I wouldn't yell from the mountain tops just yet about putting big numbers on the Fightin' Illini. They might end up being one of the most leaky secondaries in the Big 10.

Yes, Gabbert found the hot receiver when the Illini blitzed, but he also panicked early on when facing pressure, chucking one ball up for grabs that easily could have turned into a pick six, and getting flagged for a blatant intentional grounding.

The fact is, Gabbert's young. There will be growing pains. Any MU follower who is anxious to label him as an All-American needs to remember that he is a 19-year-old kid with a lot of learning to do.

That being said...yeah, it was a sick debut.

Gabbert threw rockets off his back foot, found the open receiver when faced with the blitz, seemed to have good disgression when faced with the decision to pass or run, and also demonstrated that he has the heart to take a hit. Facing Bowling Green next week in Columbia should be a cakewalk compared to the Arch Rivalry game, but will consistency be an issue?

Gabbert was in his hometown in St. Louis making his first collegiate start. Will being on Faurot Field make a difference? Bowling Green beat Troy 31-14 this weekend, so they look like a weaker opponent than Illinois, but the Falcons have had Pinkel and Mizzou's number in the distant past.

In all reality, Gabbert probably won't face a real test until he goes up against Oklahoma State's secondary in Stillwater on Oct. 17. With Bowling Green, Furman, Nevada and Nebraska coming up on the schedule, it's quite possible that Gabbert has distorted, Heisman-like numbers going into the middle of the season.

But Tiger fans cannot exercise enough caution. After last season started so well with a more talented and experienced offense, any labeling or confidence behind Gabbert and this year's unit should be done with only cautious optimism.