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February 26, 2007

Battle for a backup

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Each day from now until March 13th, PowerMizzou.com will preview a different aspect of spring football 2007 for the Tigers. We begin with our in-depth preview of each position. It starts where everything starts, with the quarterback.

The Starter: Come on, now, let's be honest. Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel may insist no job is locked up. But this job, barring injury, is locked up. Daniel did what many Missouri fans did not think possible: He made the offense even better when Brad Smith left. He goes into spring not only as Missouri's unquestioned starter, but as a team leader, a possible captain and a potential Big 12 player of the year.

The Backup: Chase Patton will hold the job to start the spring. Whether he keeps it will depend on a few things. First and foremost, has Patton gained some consistency in the off-season? The issue has never been talent for the Rock Bridge product, but rather whether he can harness that talent on any sort of play-to-play basis. If he does, Missouri could have a strong second-stringer. If not, redshirt freshmen Dominic Grooms and J.P. Tillman might get a longer than expected look.

The Spring Prediction: Daniel will get some work, but the bulk of the snaps, especially in the scrimmages, will go to Patton, Grooms and Tillman. Daniel took some big time hits as a sophomore. Yes, he's tough, but Mizzou has to be better prepared at backup than it is right now. We haven't seen enough out of Tillman or Grooms yet to predict either will overtake Patton.

Things Could Change If: Patton plays like he has the last couple of springs. We expect him to win the job, but he has to start hanging on to the ball. His performance will have more to say about the backup job than Tillman's or Grooms'.

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