Monday, March 21, 2011

Pinkel's players are making mark in NFL

BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist 
Missouri's pro day was a positive experience for quarterback Blaine Gabbert and defensive end Aldon Smith, who impressed NFL teams with their workouts.

But it was also a good day for Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel. Gabbert and Smith are certain first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft, adding to Pinkel's increasingly admirable record of getting his players ready for the NFL.

In the drafts from 2005 through 2010, Missouri had 15 players selected by NFL teams, including first-round picks Ziggy Hood, Jeremy Maclin and Sean Weatherspoon. There has been a second-rounder (William Moore) and third-rounders Chase Coffman and Atiyyah Ellison.

Two of Pinkel's quarterbacks, Brad Smith (fourth round) and Chase Daniel (undrafted), are in the NFL, as is wide receiver Danario Alexander (undrafted.)

Gabbert's quick rise to becoming a first-round pick should help Pinkel recruit some elite QBs. After all, when Gabbert enters the league Missouri will have put its last three starting QBs into the NFL. (Brad Smith is a valuable all-purpose asset for the New York Jets; he plays wide receiver, quarterback and running back in the wildcat formation, and is an excellent kickoff returner. Daniel is the No. 2 QB behind Drew Brees at New Orleans.)    

If, as expected, Gabbert and Aldon Smith go in the first round next month, that will raise the count to five first-round Mizzou draft picks since 2009. Pinkel should be proud.

And as a side note, MU's staff is being praised throughout the NFL for how they ran the pro day and for the way they treated visitors. Former Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams VP of personnel Tony Softli, who attended Thursday's session, said it was one of the classiest pro day setups he'd seen.