Gabbert's time arrives at Mizzou

Thursday, September 3, 2009
Missouri sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start his first college game Saturday against Illinois. (Associated Press file)

The sophomore follows two highly successful quarterbacks at Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After four years with Brad Smith at quarterback and three with Chase Daniel, Missouri fans have grown accustomed to a lot of offense. So all eyes will be on sophomore Blaine Gabbert when the Tigers open the season against Illinois in St. Louis on Saturday.

"I'm glad that every time since I've been here that we've gotten a new quarterback, it's always been a concern of everyone," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "That means the guy before played pretty well."

That's a bit of an understatement.

Daniel won 30 games over three seasons, led Missouri to two Big 12 championship game appearances and a brief stint at No. 1 in the AP poll in November 2007. He also put up gaudy individual numbers, including school records with 12,515 career passing yards and 101 touchdown passes. He went undrafted but is fighting for a job with the Washington Redskins.

Smith, Daniel's predecessor, became the first player in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 8,000 yards and rush for 4,000. Drafted by the New York Jets and moved to wide receiver, Smith is entering his fourth NFL season.

Being next in line is no easy task. But Pinkel has confidence in Gabbert, who was among the nation's most heavily recruited quarterbacks when he came out of Parkway West High School in suburban St. Louis.

"Blaine's a very talented guy with a great work ethic," Pinkel said. "Youth or lack of experience to me is absolutely insignificant. You have to go out and play and compete."

The quarterback position isn't the only change for Missouri. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left in December to become coach at Wyoming. David Yost, the quarterback coach for the past eight seasons, is the new offensive coordinator.

Gabbert said it has been an easy transition.

"It won't be any different," he said. "I've been working with coach Yost since I got here."

Yost's tenure has coincided with the successes of Smith and Daniel, allowing him some historical perspective on how his quarterbacks have conducted themselves as they became starters.

"I remember Chase was really, really high-strung before his first start," Yost said. "It will be interesting to see how Blaine is Friday at the hotel."

High-strung or not, Daniel was 23 for 32 and threw five touchdown passes in his debut as a starter, against Murray State.

Gabbert, though, will face a little more pressure on national television in front of 65,000 fans at the Edward Jones Dome in a game Pinkel called a "bowl atmosphere to start the season." Add to the pressure the fact that Gabbert will be playing before a hometown crowd.

"My family is all coming in for the game," Gabbert said. "I just have to stay calm and relaxed."

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