Its all about the quarterback for the Missouri Tigers in 2011...well...and a center. The Tigers return 9 offensive players from last year's 10-3 squad but notably absent will be quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the only other guy to touch the ball on every play, center Tim Barnes. All of the other pieces are in place for the Tigers to have their best offensive attack since Pinkel became the head coach but an effective quarterback is a pretty big piece in itself.
With the news that Tyler Gabbert would be transferring out sophomore James Franklin becomes the unquestioned new signal caller. He'll have T.J. Moe (1,045 receiving yards) and De'Vion Moore (517 rushing yards) among others in his arsenal of weapons and he also possesses the ability to run the football as well as throw it. The question is, can he make good decisions and protect the football? Speaking of questions, here are a few others.
1. Who is going to get the ball to the quarterback? We certainly shouldn't downplay the loss of a solid center and the Tigers lost a good one in Barnes. Despite struggling a bit in the spring Travis Roth takes over the position and will no doubt be looking to complete an offensive line that returns starters at every other position. Can the new guy play to their level?
2. Can the Tigers cover receivers? The defense isn't entering the fall in quite the same shape as the offense. Missouri is only returning six defensive starters and among the missing are both starting cornerbacks from 2010. Kip Edwards played quite a bit last season and may make the transition a bit smoother in `11 but sophomore E.J. Gaines doesn't have the same amount of experience and could be a target for opposing offensive coordinators to try and pick on.
3. Can the pass rush be the same without Aldon Smith? Smith drew so much attention that it helped pave the way for Brad Madison to record a team high 7.5 sacks. Now with Smith gone to the NFL it will be Madison drawing attention and the Tigers need another player to step in. Jacquies Smith seems to be that guy but don't count out redshirt freshman Kony Ealy. Regardless, there are some huge shoes to fill in the absence of Aldon Smith.
Oklahoma plays the Tigers on September 24th