College Football Predictions 2011: Mizzou Will Be Fine Without Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert left the Missouri Tigers for the NFL last April, going as the No. 10 overall pick in the draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
During his tenure at the University of Missouri, Gabbert produced a couple of the most productive seasons a quarterback had ever experienced at the school.
Gabbert, who threw for just over 6,800 yards in his two years as starter, also led the Tigers to their third 10-win season in four years.
He was a fan favorite, and he left.
Many people have mixed feelings as to how the Tigers are going to perform without Gabbert running the offense this year, including myself. But after taking a less objective look, I think the team is going to be just fine.
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Sophomore quarterback James Franklin is the new starter in Columbia, Missouri, much to the approval of the Tigers' faithful.
Coming out of high school, Franklin was highly touted as one of the top five dual-threat quarterbacks of the 2010 class.
Sitting at 6'2" and 225 pounds, Franklin's physical stature is more than enough to handle Gary Pinkel's spread offense.
He may not have as strong of an arm as Blaine Gabbert, but he is faster and can move the ball with his feet much better.
James Franklin's ability to move the ball down the field with either his arm or his legs is a major reason why he is making noise at "The Zou."
He's also a major reason why the team will be just fine with out Blaine Gabbert.
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Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel doesn't get enough credit outside of the state of Missouri.
It's unfortunate because of the job he's done in Columbia.
For those who don't know, he's taken Mizzou to six straight bowl games, including three 10-win seasons in the process.
He's always recruited well against powerhouses like Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, yet you never hear about him.
Pinkel's spread-style offense will be a perfect fit for new quarterback James Franklin. It is a great transition for any new quarterback.
He is a great leader who always has his players ready for the season. A player-friendly coach with a great track record of winning is exactly who I want running my team in situations like this.
Sheldon Richardson and the 2011 Class
Most people won't find Sheldon Richardson's name when they look up the 2011 recruiting class.
That's because Richardson was part of the 2009 recruiting class and was originally slated to come to Missouri then.
Here's a little bit about Richardson—in 2009 he was the No. 1 player ranked at his position (DT) and the No. 4 player overall. He's 6'4", 300 pounds and runs a 4.72 40-yard dash. Not too shabby.
He's finally academically eligible and has been practicing with the team for about a month now.
There is no doubt that his presence is going to instantly improve the Tigers' defensive line.
Even though it's two years in the making, Richardson, combined with the slew of recruits Pinkel has brought in the past two years, shouldn't cause the Tigers to feel too much pressure in replacing Blaine Gabbert.
The Receiving Corps
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The Missouri Tigers have a boat-load of experience when it comes to catching the football. Every single Tiger who caught a pass from Blaine Gabbert last year is back this year.
That is remarkable, and also very good for James Franklin.
The team had three different players record more than 50 receptions a year ago, including tight end Michael Egnew and wide receiver T.J. Moe, who both hauled in over 90 balls apiece.
Even with the loss of Blaine Gabbert, James Franklin is good enough of a quarterback to keep those numbers looking similar.
He may even net both players 1,000 yards apiece.
The Defensive Front 7
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Mizzou's defense was one of the best in the nation a year ago, surrendering only 16.1 points per game to opponents—good for sixth-best in the nation.
The team returns five of seven playmakers from that defensive front seven of a year ago, and that's without the aforementioned five-star recruit, Sheldon Richardson.
I love this defense because of its ability to put pressure on the quarterback, which in the Big 12 is especially important.
Keeping pressure on players like Landry Jones and Brandon Weedon will not allow either guy to get set and comfortably toss the ball around to either of their All-American wide receivers.
I'm looking for this defense to keep opponents, on average, under 20 points a game again this season, and with that, keep pressure off of Franklin and the offense.