Pinkel optimistic about upcoming football season

Pinkel said Blaine Gabbert will continue his success this year.

Missouri football head coach Gary Pinkel praised junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert and said he remains highly optimistic about the 2010 season Tuesday at the Big 12 Media Day. Pinkel deflected questions on conference realignment and new scheduling. Maneater File Photo

Missouri football head coach Gary Pinkel spoke with media Tuesday in Irving, Texas at the Big 12 media day about the upcoming 2010 season.

In nearly a decade with the Tigers, Pinkel has compiled a record of 67-46 in nine years of coaching. Coming off an 8-5 record in 2009, Pinkel said he's optimistic about where the program stands but acknowledged there is still work to be done.

“When you look at our program, I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Pinkel said. “There’s a consistency of winning that we have. There are a lot of things that we have to accomplish, and I want to win on a higher level on a more consistent basis. I just want to continue to build our program and raise the standards of the winning. That’s our goal to get that done.”

Much of last year’s success was due to the play of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who as a first-year starter established himself as one of the best in the conference. Gabbert earned second team All-Big 12 honors while throwing for 3,593 yards, the third highest total in MU history. Gabbert also threw 24 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, despite being hobbled by a severe ankle sprain early in the year. With two years under his belt as an incoming junior, Pinkel is confident that Gabbert will continue his success this year.

“I think (Gabbert) did a tremendous job last year,” Pinkel said. “We all know he had an injury, and he battled through that. That said an awful lot about him. I expect him to up his game with the experience factor. He has a chance to be a great player, and we’re excited about him getting going this year.”

Another key factor in Missouri’s success last season was the play of tailback Derrick Washington. The junior ran for 865 yards and 10 touchdowns, while helping spread out the defense as a versatile running and pass-catching threat. Washington slimmed down entering this years summer workouts, and Pinkel feels the incoming senior’s added quickness will translate into success on the field.

“A lot of players going to the NFL the last few years were coming back leaner than what we had them,” Pinkel said. “We decided to look at our players and learn from that. It’s all about quickness and movement. He’s a lot quicker guy than he was this past year, and expect that to help him play at a higher level.”

Amid all the speculation about conference realignment that has taken place this summer, Pinkel’s focus has turned entirely to football. Pinkel turned away conversation about the formatting of the schedule and championship changes due to the expansion talks.

“Those decisions—they don’t ask me,” Pinkel said. “If I gave my opinion, it wouldn’t matter. Those are conference decisions they have to make and institutional decisions within the conference. I leave that for those folks. I’m just trying to have a good football team.”

Missouri will kick off the season in St. Louis against Illinois on Sept. 4. Missouri took the previous meeting with Illinois in the 2009 opener, winning 37-9.

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