Smith’s role still murky

Pinkel mum on whether Mizzou will revamp offense

? Everyone wanted to know. But nobody, it seemed, was ready to give a clear-cut response.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has been roundly criticized for his use of standout quarterback Brad Smith, a proven dual-threat talent who rushed for just 553 yards in 2004 after averaging 1,217 during his first two seasons in Columbia, Mo.

MU tried a new approach with Smith for his junior year and it didn’t work. Smith posted career-low numbers in quarterback rating, completion percentage, all-purpose yardage and rushing numbers, and a career-high in interceptions.

He had been touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate in the preseason.

Missouri quarterback Brad Smith is reflected in a mirrored wall as he answers questions during Big 12 Conference football media days. Smith appeared alongside Tigers coach Gary Pinkel on Wednesday in Houston.

So, what Brad Smith will everyone see during his senior season? The fleet, strong-armed sensation who led Missouri to two bowl games, or the handcuffed Smith who led Mizzou to a 5-6 record last year?

Pinkel never gave a definite answer Wednesday at the JW Marriott, site of Big 12 Conference football media days.

“Honestly, what we will do with every player we have is we are going to try to develop every skill that they have,” Pinkel said. “Brad, as he has matured, he wants to work on his throwing, work on his footwork, work on all kinds of things to make himself a better player.”

Even Smith was reluctant to speak about upcoming changes.

“I don’t think I will be expected to do too much different,” Smith said. “We have to do the same thing. We have to throw and catch and block and roll with it.

“Doing those fundamentals will help us to win, and, as a quarterback, it’s my responsibility to get everybody to play at a high level by playing at a high level myself. That’s what I am working at. That’s where my focus is.”

Pinkel stressed he was more worried about small fundamentals rather than a major change regarding Smith.

“Scheme is important, but I would suggest if we would have blocked better and thrown better and caught better and run better … it’s fundamental,” Pinkel said. “I am more concerned about that than anything.”

Smith said he worked most on his footwork this offseason. Considering his arm strength is thought to be second-to-none, and his 2,998 rushing yards say plenty about his legs, perhaps footwork is the missing piece separating Brad Smith from true greatness.

Many, though, felt bad playcalling kept Smith down in 2004 — though Smith won’t admit it.

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel, center, answers questions during the second day of Big 12 Conference football media days. Pinkel appeared Wednesday in Houston.

“We had a plan,” Smith said, “and I agreed to it.”

Now, Pinkel and his staff have gone back to the drawing board, implementing new plays. Smith went as far as to say the changes made him nervous, but that “there’s so many opportunities for big plays.”

Either way, Pinkel has a quarterback with the potential to make them — if Smith’s surroundings allow him to unleash it.

“He has greatness within him, and I think he has a supporting class,” Pinkel said. “It’s going to be fun to see where we go with it.”