COLUMBIA — For the past two seasons, Chase Daniel had the luxury of throwing to NFL caliber targets at the tight end position.
Martin Rucker, who had more than 800 yards receiving along with eight touchdowns in 2007, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round. In 2008, Chase Coffman did even better. While missing two games with a toe injury, he still had 987 yards receiving and scored 10 touchdowns. Coffman might be drafted even higher in next weekend's NFL draft. Both received first-team All-American honors.
Spring intrasquad game
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Faurot Field
ADMISSION: Admission: $3 or three canned/boxed food items benefiting the Central Missouri Food Bank; MU students get in free
In 2009, the Missouri players and coaches expect more success at tight end with sophomore Andrew Jones. At spring practice, Jones has impressed.
“Last week, (quarterback) Jimmy Costello was in and the ball was tossed up in the air and he (Jones) went up and got it, much like Chase Coffman often did. Now, I don’t think Andrew’s going to hurdle anybody like Chase did,” new offensive coordinator Dave Yost said laughing.
Coffman and Jones seem to have a number of similarities. Watching Jones practice Thursday looked awfully similar to watching Coffman play. Both are listed at 245 pounds, while Coffman is just an inch taller at 6-6. At practice, Jones displayed soft hands when catching the ball, something Coffman was known for.
“They both have some of the best hands I’ve ever seen,” sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
Jones said he knows that Coffman and Rucker each had unique qualities that they brought to the team. For Coffman, it was his hands and hurdling antics over defenders. Using brute strength and power to run over defenders was Rucker’s thing. Jones hopes he brings something new and special to the position.
“Catching the ball in traffic, I think, is my best quality,” Jones said. “I'm not worried about getting hit. I’m pretty big, so I can take a blow from a defender. I just worry about catching the ball. As long as I catch the ball I’m happy.”
Gabbert and Jones were not redshirted as freshmen and gained some valuable, yet limited playing experience. Jones was able to gain some experience while Coffman was hindered with the toe injury.
“That game experience is really valuable,” Gabbert said. “Just going through the motions of pregame and preparing each week for teams from around the Big 12 that are really high caliber and, from the mental side, that really helped us out.”
Jones said that Coffman, who was also his roommate, helped him throughout the season.
“He helped me out a lot. The night before each game he’d come talk to me, make sure I was ready,” Jones said.
Yost thinks that experience has made Jones a more mature player this spring.
“This spring, I think he’s stepped up from the leadership role and maturity role. He looks like a seasoned veteran out there. He knows the offense inside and out,” Yost said. “He’s become a really solid, dependable blocker. He can really get on those backers and move some guys.”
Jones is a well-liked player in the Tigers locker room.
“He’s a fun-loving guy. He’s Joe Missouri. He’s got great enthusiasm at practice every day,” Yost said. “When he sees that were not as flashy as we need to be, or need some enthusiasm, he says something. He’s really accepting that leadership role, not only with the receiving aspect, but also with the entire offense.”
The new leadership role Jones has taken on should be influential in the Tigers' success. For now, Jones wants to continue to get better. He is excited for the annual Black and Gold game on Saturday.
“I just want to get out there and polish up a few things. We may be a young team, but we’re very exciting,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of great talent. It’s a good showcase to let the fans know that these past couple of years wasn’t a fluke.”