With the starting quarterback job up for grabs and the inexperience of the three candidates for the spot, there has been a special focus this spring on defense and the running game. That extra attention paid to the ground game and defense was on full display at this year’s Black and Gold Game.
“It’s always good to be a real good defensive team. Anytime you have a good quarterback and you run the ball the better it can be,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “I think a lot of times you have to see where you are at and where you are going. We have a lot of good players and both quarterbacks are very talented, so we just have to see what happens.”
Sophomore James Franklin, the odds-on favorite for the starting quarterback position, looked sharp, completing 13 of his 21 passes for 116 yards. He accounted for the only two touchdowns of the scrimmage.
"Overall, I thought it went fairly well but the wind was a little tough," Franklin said. "My main goal was to get positive yardage and move the offense, and I thought I could have done a better job of that today."
Redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert, the younger brother of former Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, completed 8 of 22 pass attempts for 48 yards. He threw one interception.
“It was a little bit rocky,” Gabbert said. “Not the best performance I’ve ever had, but I did some good things and some bad things and there’s plenty to improve on.”
Entering the spring, Gabbert was listed as the third string quarterback. However, he continued to improve during the spring practices and earned the No. 1 quarterback spot heading into the Black and Gold game. His work earned him the title of Most Improved Quarterback.
“Overall, I think I did a good job this spring, but there’s still plenty of improvement to do and hopefully I can carry that over this summer and in two-a-days,” Gabbert said.
The third quarterback competing for the starting job, junior Ashton Glaser, completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for 95 yards. Glaser entered the game with the third string offense in the second half.
The wind limited the play calling on offense in terms of passing. With gusts up to 21 mph, the plays being called consisted mostly screen plays.
On defense, Missouri looked just as strong as last year. The defensive line led the way, consistently finding ways to get to the quarterback.
Although the defensive line is returning numerous starters from last season, the linebacker corps and secondary lost numerous players to graduation. But Pinkel said he is confident in their replacements.
“We have a lot of guys on the defensive line with several starters backs,” Pinkel said. “I think Tavon Bolden had a great spring he definitely has William Moore ability. We have a lot of things in place. We have to play well and play consistent we have to have playmakers come out. At this point we have to get back to work.”
Pinkel said the final depth chart of the spring will be released later this week. In terms of how the starting quarterback position will be decided, the Missouri head coach said he plans to allow things to run their course and not rush the decision.
“I don’t like getting involved in the process I like to let it take care of itself,” Pinkel said. “We have two great competitors. We will see where it goes. There is not a timetable. Let the competition begin…Overall it’s something I've done for a long time. We just have to let the players determine it. “