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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Missouri football prepares for fall

With a high turnover, fall camp provided much for Missouri to consider.

Aug. 25, 2009

Missouri's scrimmage at Faurot Field on Thursday will be its third and last of the fall camp.

Before the Tigers close the door on this year's preseason, let's take a look at the biggest storylines to arise during the first 21 practices.

Big shoes to fill: For the first time in three years, Missouri will feature a new starting quarterback when the season begins.

Departing quarterback Chase Daniel left a legacy of prolific passing and the ability to rack up victories.

Sophomore Blaine Gabbert entered camp as the favorite to take Daniel's place, and he will end it in the same position. His ability to run the spread offense and build connections with the top receivers has Gabbert as the frontrunner.

The big question now is who will act as his backup.

Sophomore Jimmy Costello and freshman Blaine Dalton are vying for the second-string job and will fight it out the last three days of camp.

Leading the way: Because Missouri lost so much senior leadership, it will be imperative for someone to step up and show this young team how to win.

The team elected as team captains guard Kurtis Gregory, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, receiver Danario Alexander and nose tackle Jaron Baston — all of whom are seniors.

Going head-to-head with teams such as Texas and Oklahoma State will require the tenacity of guys who have been in the fray before.

Many happy returns: Along with the departure of the starting quarterback, Missouri also has a void in returning duties after Jeremy Maclin left for the NFL.

Coach Gary Pinkel announced last week junior cornerback Carl Gettis is the frontrunner to handle the punt returns and the most likely choice for kickoff returns is junior safety Jasper Simmons.

It is unlikely Missouri can replace Maclin's production but, in his departure, the Tigers have another chance to strike gold in the return game.

Receiving corps: To whom will Gabbert be throwing?

It looks more and more like Alexander is over injuries that have sidelined the senior for parts of the last two seasons.

When healthy, Alexander has shown he can be a major asset to the receiving attack.

During the Tiger's practice Saturday, Gabbert quickly brought the first-team offense to the end zone in the two-minute drill. Alexander received his touchdown pass, just one of multiple times the two hooked up during the practice.

Other receivers include senior Jared Perry and sophomore Wes Kemp. Perry is heading into his fourth year after coming off a 567-yard receiving campaign in 2008.

Perry was named to the 2006 Big 12 All-Freshman team and has found varying success in the past three seasons.

Kemp saw playing time in 2008 and has elevated his stock during preseason.

Together, all three receivers will likely form a solid core of Missouri wideouts.

Getting defensive: Missouri brings back four defensive starters from last season, leaving seven spots open for newcomers.

The Tigers figure to be strong in the linebacking corps with Weatherspoon and junior Luke Lambert returning at weak side and middle linebacker, respectively.

The only returning defensive lineman will be the nose tackle Baston.

Sophomore Jacquies Smith is a leading candidate to start at defensive end with experience from playing in every game last season. During the spring season, Smith was named Most Improved Defensive Lineman.

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