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February 15, 2011
Missouri opens spring football practice in exactly three weeks. Leading up to the first practice, PowerMizzou.com will give Tiger fans an in-depth look at the roster at each position. We will also have a series of articles highlighting some of the major storylines to follow this spring. Today, we start with the most important position--and the biggest question mark--on the Tiger team.
The Starter: Sophomore James Franklin holds down the top spot heading into spring ball. Franklin backed up Blaine Gabbert last year, seeing spot duty. He completed 11-of-14 passes for 106 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Franklin's role was mostly as a runner, where he picked up 116 yards and scored two touchdowns on 23 carries.
The Challengers: Tyler Gabbert redshirted during his first year on campus, but impressed observers during Missouri's bowl practices. He is smaller than Franklin, but has a strong arm. He also has the ability to hurt defenses with his legs. Gabbert is expected to give Franklin a hard run for the starting job. Ashton Glaser enters his third year on campus as the third player in the quarterback competition. The spring is a critical time for Glaser. If he comes out behind two younger players, it is hard to envision any meaningful playing time for him at Mizzou.
Major Spring Storyline: Well, this one's pretty easy. Who starts? For the first time since Brad Smith was a redshirt freshman (Gary Pinkel's second season), this is a question that can be asked legitimately. Franklin and Gabbert have to be considered the front-runners. Franklin has the leg up due to his experience a year ago, but by no means is it a foregone conclusion.
Coming out of Spring: It will be more of a surprise if Missouri does have a sure starter coming out of spring than if it doesn't. This isn't a competition we expect to be settled before fall camp. Gabbert needs to build on his performance in bowl practices while Franklin needs to put a stamp on the job and end the speculation. This will be the most closely followed storyline of this--or any other--spring.
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