Transfer could fare well for Mizzou, Gabbert

Tyler Gabbert's career began as a near carbon copy of his older brother's.

A commitment to Nebraska, followed by a decommitment and finally signing a letter of intent with Missouri.

Tyler enrolled early at Missouri last spring. He spent a year behind a franchise quarterback, just as his brother did during his freshman season behind Chase Daniel .

As a freshman, though, Blaine played the role that James Franklin assumed last year, a freshman change of pace behind an experienced talent.

And in the spring that followed, their careers further diverged. While Blaine Gabbert won the starting job in what was a competition in name only, Tyler Gabbert narrowly lost a spring battle with Franklin.

Rather than stick around this fall and try to claim a No. 1 spot, Gabbert announced he would transfer on Monday, giving no indication of his future destination.

Based on coaches' comments, the race looked close, with Gabbert grabbing hold of a co-No. 1 spot midway through spring camp and briefly getting more time with the first team than his counterpart, Franklin.

But after spring break, Gabbert struggled while Franklin surged, capped by a disastrous spring game for Gabbert, who completed 8 of 22 passes for 48 yards and an interception.

Franklin completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards and two scores.

The pair's cumulative numbers were nearly identical over the handful of spring scrimmages, but based on the finish, Missouri's coaches made the right call for the time being, placing Franklin atop the chart but stopping well short of anointing him the starter for next season.

Publicly, at least.

Gabbert's father, Chuck Gabbert, spoke with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday after the announcement was made public.

Gabbert is leaving Mizzou, his father, Chuck, said Monday morning, "for an opportunity to compete and vie for a starting position."

Unstated but implied in those words and his son's action is the notion that Franklin had seized hold of the starting job for keeps after a back-and-forth battle in spring practice.

"This is not a knee-jerk reaction by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

Gabbert's father also told the Columbia Tribune "There are other factors that went into this decision that we’re not going to discuss with the press."

I won't stab a guess at what those are, but regardless of what Missouri's coaches told the media, it seems likely that Gabbert didn't feel he had a realistic shot to win the job in the fall.

This spring, Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost described Gabbert to me as the quarterback with the most competitive fire and the strongest arm on campus.

Decision-making and accuracy will take you a lot further on the field than either of those, but I find it very, very hard to believe that Gabbert would leave before fall camp if he still felt he had a chance to start next fall. The message from the staff in the post-spring evaluations likely wasn't welcomed. The public was blindsided by what looked like a stunning decision. I'd be surprised if the same was true of Missouri's coaching staff.

The future could be promising for both. Gabbert is good enough to play somewhere at the Division I level, and he'll have four years of eligibility after he sits out a year at his new home, unless he goes the FCS route, where he'd be eligible immediately.

Nebraska, where he first committed, has already surfaced as one possible destination, as has Louisville, where former Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson coaches the quarterbacks.

But both schools have logjams at quarterback and young players taking part in those competitions. Louisville also signed Teddy Bridgewater, one of the nation's top dual-threat passers, in its 2011 recruiting class.

Both places sound good on the surface, but I'd expect Gabbert to look elsewhere and, with finals at Missouri wrapping up this week, take his time doing it. There's no rush for Gabbert, who I expect to make a few campus visits this summer and find a permanent home a few weeks before fall camp begins.

For Missouri, the quarterback situation gets simplified. Franklin might have to hold off incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser this fall, but he'll begin preseason camp with a huge lead, and I'd expect him to ingrain himself as the team's offensive leader during voluntary workouts this summer.

That's probably an advantage in the long run for Missouri, which can focus on giving Franklin a huge share -- if not all -- of the first-team snaps during fall camp, too.

Missouri's fielding one of its most complete teams under Gary Pinkel, but a huge gap remains at quarterback.

For the first time since Blaine Gabbert's departure, though, there's little doubt about who will fill it.