On Saturday morning, the Missouri Tigers completed their most intense practice of the bowl season to date. This was a two-plus hour workout, in full pads, inside the Devine Pavilion, and marked the beginning of serious preparation for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Missouri's opponent in the upcoming Insight Bowl.
Saturday's injury report includes Brad Madison, who had surgery on Friday to repair a broken finger. He sat out practice today, in street clothes, but Coach Pinkel said that he would be back at practice, probably by Tuesday. Kevin Rutland participated in most of the drills, wearing a red pull-over, but sat out the 11-on-11s when they went to full contact.
In attendance at Saturday's practice, was this weekend's lone visitor, CB prospect David Johnson 6'0" 180 Spring (TX). He certainly passed the eye test, as he watched the Tigers practice, and was seen visiting with some of the Missouri CBs, including Kevin Rutland, Carl, Gettis, and others.
Saturday's practice was more focused on getting work for the first and second units, in preparation for the bowl game against Iowa.
During the 1-on-1 pass rush drills, Austin Wuebbels picked up a win over Marvin Foster. Tim Barnes stopped Brendan Donaldson. Jayson Palmgren got the win, going against Jimmy Burge. Elvis Fisher took Aldon Smith to the inside, stayed with him, and picked up the win. Mark Hill moved his feet real well, and picked up a good win over Brayden Burnett. Afterwards, Josh Henson stepped in and gave Hill some instruction. Justin Britt stopped George White.
During 11-on-11 action, Kendial Lawrence took an inside hand-off from Blaine Gabbert, and picked his way on the inside for a nice gain. Blaine Gabbert hit Wes Kemp coming across the middle, on a drag route, that Kemp turned up for a nice gain. Lawrence took an inside hand-off, and took it around the right side for a nice gain. Going against the first team defense, Blaine found Henry Josey out in the left flat, and Josey jetted up the sideline, to take it the distance. A little later, Jacquies Smith chased Blaine out of the pocket. Blaine ran away from Jacquies, as he turned it up along the right sideline for a first down. Marcus Murphy took an inside hand-off from Blaine, and took it up inside for a nice gain. Lawrence took a hand-off from Blaine, and picked his way around the right side, for a nice gain. Blaine hit Wes Kemp on the bubble screen, and Kemp followed Michael Egnew's block, to pick up about five yards.
James Franklin hit Andrew Jones right in stride on a deep post, that Jones took to the house. Franklin hit Henry Josey right in stride, on a swing pass, out along the right side. Josey turned it up for a first down and more. Franklin found Rolandis Woodland on a slip screen, out along the numbers on the right side, and Woodland turned it up field for a big gain. Franklin hit Brandon Gerau right in the numbers, as Gerau settled into an opening in the zone coverage. Later, Franklin dropped back to pass, then pulled it down, and scrambled for about 30 yards. Franklin came back to Josey, hitting the speedster in stride out in the right flat. Josey took it up the sideline for a first down.
Franklin worked with the first team offense against the first team defense. Tim Barnes had left to attend his graduation, so Travis Ruth took over at center. Ruth's doing a much better job of snapping the football. Marcus Murphy took an inside hand-off from Franklin, and ran it up inside for some tough yards. Real nice run! Brendan Donaldson came free at the snap, and hit Franklin in the backfield, before he could make a move. Then, Franklin hit Jared Culver out in the right flat, but Andrew Wilson was right there to make the stop. Josey took a hand-off from Franklin, on the jet sweep, and skirted the right edge for a first down.
Justin Britt came in to play center, when the second unit came in. Britt's first snap was on the ground. Franklin gathered it in, and ran up the middle for a first down. Then, Franklin stepped to his left to catch Britt's next snap, catching it with his left hand, and continued to his left without losing a step, pitching it with his left hand to Marcus Murphy for a nice gain.
Franklin, who had seen limited reps the last couple of practices, got a lot of work in on Saturday. And, he performed very well. Franklin does a lot of things well, including the way that he consistently leads his receivers so that they can maximize yards after catch. Franklin's very good on the passes to the TBs, out in the flats, and adds a whole other dimension to the run game. Franklin's also very good on the deep throws. The two receivers who do the best job of catching the deep throws, Sasser and Hunt, are back to playing on the scout team.
Tyler Gabbert put nice touch on a deep throw down the left sideline that Jaleel Clark hauled in, as he tip-toed along the sideline, and reached out to bring the ball back into the field of play. A little later, Kenji Jackson intercepted a Tyler Gabbert pass. A little later, Matt White came in and quickly garnered a couple of interceptions, stepping in front of Jared Culver to pick off a Tyler Gabbert pass for the second one. White really has a nose for the football, and excellent ball skills.
I thought it was a good day of practice, with good work, by the first two units. The Missouri safeties had a good day, with Jackson and White garnering multiple interceptions, and a pair of freshmen looked real good on offense, in James Franklin and Henry Josey. Along the offensive line, Justin Britt and Travis Ruth took a half-hour excursion forward in time, to the spring, when they'll be competing for the first-team center position. I doubt that one will be decided before fall camp. And, Chris Freeman worked with the third unit again, this time at left tackle, which if he continues his rapid ascent, could be where he'll be playing in the spring, in a competition with Mark Hill. Freeman's rapid progression could free up Anthony Gatti for a move inside.