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Column: Gabbert next in line to lead MU offense

Matt Gerstner

Aug. 25, 2009

Pressure only shows up in a chemistry lab for sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert. It doesn't exist on the football field.

Nevermind that he's stepping into some of the biggest shoes in the country, replacing two of the most productive players, much less quarterbacks, at Missouri.

Forget that most of the offensive talent core went off on different adventures, either to the NFL or to 7-Eleven, and Gabbert must lead one of the most complicated offenses to learn and execute with minuscule senior leadership.

Pressure? What pressure?

"I'm not feeling any at all," Gabbert said. "I'm just taking it all in stride. Leadership comes with how you play. We can't focus on who we lost, we can only focus on who we have and winning football games."

The 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound sophomore signal caller holds in his hands (and arm) the key to success for the young Tiger offense.

Not that Missouri fans aren't used to that.

Recall the last two starting quarterbacks for the Tigers — Brad Smith and Chase Daniel.

Smith, now a New York Jets wide receiver (and potential Wildcat specialist), started his redshirt freshman year.

Daniel saw action his first year and claimed the outright starting job his sophomore year. Sound familiar?

Gabbert and Daniel both had the attention of college scouts in high school, but so did Daniel's backup Chase Patton. Patton had the build. Daniel had the starting job and the offense to get him in the Heisman chatter.

Gabbert has both.

But coach Gary Pinkel would like me to stop right about now before I get too ahead of myself.

"I told him right coming in, 'You're not Chase Daniel, you're not Brad Smith, you're Blaine Gabbert,'" Pinkel said. "You're who you are, you be your own quarterback. You focus on yourself and focus on the best player you can be. We're seeing some good things from Blaine, but he's also a thousand times better than what we've seen."

Not that Pinkel isn't hoping to see Gabbert show those attributes of Chase Daniel, and most good quarterbacks for that matter.

"Any quarterback we have, we want to see them do good quarterbacking," Pinkel said. "Good quarterbacking is you don't take delay of games, you don't botch snaps, you don't miss the other guy that's wide open; you may throw an interception but it's not going to be because you threw it right to him. You get rid of the football, you don't take sacks in a certain situation, that's what being a good quarterback is."

But Pinkel has another job for Gabbert to do, and the fans wouldn't mind seeing it done, either.

"Your job is to help us win football games. Stats are stats, but winning football games is the only stat," Pinkel said. "An example last year, right before we left for our bowl game, Chase Daniel came into my office, like he'd done many times, and said, 'You know what? If we win this football game, we will have won 30 games in the past three years.' So that bowl game was not about throwing touchdown passes or so I could make myself look good or passing yards; it had absolutely nothing to do with that. All he cared about was if we won or not."

Pinkel said winning games is what matters. And he thinks Gabbert and the Tigers will do just that.

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