Missouri looks for new playmakers at wide receiver

Departing seniors accounted for 60 percent of Missouri's receptions.
Freshman wide receiver Drew O'Connell makes a one-handed catch from junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert during practice Tuesday at Faurot Field. The annual Black and Gold game will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.

Last season, senior wide receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry made 60 percent of the receptions for Missouri. Come this fall, both will be gone, and junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert will need some new targets to hit who can make big plays.

Junior wide receivers Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson saw significant playing time last season but will be expected to play a bigger role this season

"We need playmakers this year," Jackson said. "We're taking this opportunity the best we can."

Missouri uses a lot of wide receivers in the spread offense, in which 15 different players caught at least one pass last season. Coach Gary Pinkel said he has the personnel to put a lot of good receivers on the field.

Sophomore T.J. Moe has impressed his teammates in practice and is one receiver who could see significant playing time this season. Moe was a quarterback in high school, who began the transition to wide receiver last season.

"He runs really good, crisp routes, and being a quarterback helps him have a good understanding of the game," Kemp said about Moe.

But the receivers, no matter who steps into the biggest roles, will have big shoes to fill. Alexander and Perry caught for 2,477 yards and scored 20 of the Tigers 26 receiving touchdowns last season Kemp scored three, and Jackson scored two.

"Those are two great receivers," Gabbert said about Alexander and Perry. "But we've moved on and we're looking pretty good so far."

Gabbert, who was named second-team all-Big 12 in his first season as a starter last season, is confident with this year's group of receivers.

"They're doing a great job," Gabbert said. "All of our receivers have stepped up big time this spring."

Gabbert is another player who would be expected to step up with a year of starting experience already under his belt.

"(The team knows) if they play well around him, he's a guy that could lead them," Pinkel said.

Gabbert completed 18-of-29 passes for 155 yards and did not turn the ball over in practice Tuesday, but he knows he has plenty of room to improve before August.

"It doesn't matter if you're Tom Brady or you're in high school, you've got to work hard and get better everyday," Gabbert said.

Missouri fans will get a sneak-peak at next year's squad Saturday at the Black and Gold game set to begin at 1 p.m. Hopes are high for Missouri, which is coming off an 8-5 season in 2009.

"We want to win the Big 12 North, which gives us a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship Game, which if you're good enough, like we were a few years ago, gives you a chance to play in the National Championship Game," Pinkel said. "We have a chance to be good if everybody plays better than we did a year ago. But that doesn't always happen."

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