September 1, 2009

Tuesday Notebook: Gabbert the Focus

The questions about Blaine Gabbert are not new. But now that game week is here, they're being voiced just a little bit more loudly.

The Tigers' new quarterback was the major topic of discussion on Monday when the Tigers met the media in advance of the Illinois game. And despite the many questions from outside the program, those inside it seem to be just fine with the new quarterback.

"He'll be okay," Gary Pinkel said. "I'm more concerned with the guys around him."

Pinkel did hint that what Gabbert will be asked to do this week might not resemble what he will be asked to do toward the end of the season.

"We didn't do the same things Chase's first year that we did the last two years," the coach said. "Not even close."

Few things can help a new quarterback like a go-to receiver. Throughout camp, it has looked like Gabbert found his in Danario Alexander. After two injury-riddled years, Alexander had a standout August, prompting Pinkel to proclaim, "The old Danario's back."

Illinois might hope not. Alexander had nine catches for 82 yards against the Illini in 2007, before breaking his wrist in the second half. And the way Pinkel views it, all the hand-wringing about the new quarterback is a compliment.

"Every time we get a new quarterback, it's always been a concern of everybody's," he said. "That's good. That means the other guy's been pretty good."

Gabbert said he has been to three of the Missouri-Illinois matchups. He did not play in last year's game, so this one might be just a little bit different.

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