Tigers head into spring game needing replacement at QB for Gabbert

The Missouri Tigers have been working all spring to figure out who will replace Blaine Gabbert (11) at quarterback in the fall.

The Missouri Tigers have been working all spring to figure out who will replace Blaine Gabbert (11) at quarterback in the fall. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA (AP) — The Missouri Tigers enter Saturday’s spring game having won 40 games over the last four seasons for the first time in school history.

However, they must replace a likely first round NFL draft pick at the quarterback position.

Most draft experts have two-year starter Blaine Gabbert going early in the first round of this year’s draft after compiling 6,822 passing yards and 40 touchdowns to just 18 interceptions. Not since Steve Pisarkiewicz was selected 19th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1977 have the Tigers had a quarterback picked in Round 1.

With Gabbert’s departure, coach Gary Pinkel has announced an open competition for the starting quarterback job that has narrowed to sophomore James Franklin and redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert, who happens to be Blaine’s younger brother.

Franklin was the early favorite heading into spring camp after spending all of last season as the team’s No. 2 quarterback. He appeared in 10 games and completed 11-of-14 passes for 106 yards with one touchdown and one interception and added 116 yards on the ground with two more scores.

The Corinth, Texas, native has gotten off to a slow start in the first two spring scrimmages, going just 31-of-61 for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Tyler Gabbert began spring practice listed as the team’s third-string quarterback but has ascended the depth chart after completing 36-of-48 passes for 417 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass through two scrimmages. Gabbert lacks the size and strength of his older brother, listed at 6-feet and weighing just 190 pounds, but he has been the more accurate passer.

The two signal callers are currently splitting time with the first-team offense and a decision from Pinkel is not expected until the fall.

Whichever candidate wins the job outright will lead an offense that is returning nine starters from a 10-win season a year ago. The Tigers welcome back four starting offensive lineman, a 1,000-yard receiver in T.J. Moe, a trio of tailbacks that combined for 1,376 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns as well as first team All-American tight end Michael Egnew.

On the other side of the ball, Missouri lost five starters on defense, including three in the secondary. Defensive end Aldon Smith is another likely first-round pick who gave up his final two years of eligibility to enter the draft. Smith set a school record with 11.5 sacks during his freshman campaign in 2009.

His replacement, junior Brad Madison, has continued to perform at a high level this spring after breaking out last season to lead the team with 7.5 sacks.

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