SATURDAY PRACTICE NOTEBOOK: Gabbert's arm strength opens up Missouri offense

Saturday, August 22, 2009 | 4:41 p.m. CDT; updated 8:36 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 22, 2009

COLUMBIA — If everyone on the receiving end of Blaine Gabberts’ rocket passes during Saturday’s seven-on-seven drills weren’t already wearing football helmets, they would probably be asking for catcher’s masks.

The sophomore quarterback has shown great touch on plenty of throws during Missouri’s fall camp, but the true show comes when Gabbert is stepping into throws and putting some heat on each one.

Plenty of throws Saturday ended with the sound of the ball smacking off a set of shoulder pads. Gabbert’s ability to use his arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows, combined with his ability to make deep throws, opens up nearly every possible route for offensive coordinator David Yost.

  • It's true for nearly every quarterback in nearly every situation, and Gabbert and the rest of the Missouri offense are no exception. When Gabbert has time, things look great. Andrew Jones, Perry and Danario Alexander have a feel for finding holes in zone coverage, and when given the time to do so, Gabbert has no trouble finding a receiver in the middle of the field.

So getting injured sophomore offensive tackle Dan Hoch back in time for the season opener against Illinois will be a key in creating that time for Gabbert. During the first play of the 11-on-11 session linebacker Andrew Gachkar came untouched off the offensive's right side for a would-be sack.

  • With how good Gabbert's receivers are at finding voids in the defense they often settle into a passing window and wait for Gabbert to get them the ball. During the full-team session at the end of practice, however, the wide receivers on the first team offense were attacking the ball while it was in the air.

Alexander made a great play on an under-thrown pass that required him to work back to the ball and go up and get it over the cornerback, and Wes Kemp made a similarly aggressive play during a two-minute drill while reaching up to snag a pass up the seam.

  • Rolandis Woodland got behind the No. 1 defense for a long touchdown pass from Jimmy Costello that, other than being on the other side of the field, was nearly identical to the score they put together during Thursday's scrimmage. Both plays are unsettling reminders for anyone who watched the Missouri defense last season — a great play, series, or quarter can become insignificant pretty quickly. It only takes one.





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Drew Babb August 23, 2009 | 1:28 p.m.

I'm not sure I understand your point of view in this piece! First you say Gabbert has developed a great touch with his passes. Then you say he bounced "plenty" of passes off shoulder pads in the practice. Which is it? Great touch? Or does he drill too hard?

(Report Comment)
Robert Mays August 23, 2009 | 8:05 p.m.

Drew- I think that he's learned to pick his spots. It's not that he throws the ball TOO hard. When he's putting that kind of zip on throws it's usually warranted, such as times where there's a tight window he's trying to fit the ball in, or he's making a throw across the field. The throws in the seven-on-seven drill that I was referring to were all throws into smaller windows in the middle of the field. The only reason that the ball was hitting shoulder pads is that it was getting there so quickly that the receivers didn't have a chance to catch it away from their bodies.

It's been documented that Gabbert had trouble finding the right touch on some throws in high school. His coach has been quoted as saying that he wanted Gabbert to know when to throw his change up rather than the constant fastball. But he seems to have developed the ability to discern the difference between the two. On short throws (especially to running backs on screens and swing passes) and throws that require specific lofts, he's looked quite good.

- Robert Mays

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