On Wednesday afternoon, the Missouri Tigers practiced on Faurot Field, in full pads, for over two hours, in their final preparation for Saturday's first spring scrimmage. Afterwards, coach Pinkel talked about practicing in pads two straight days, and updated us on the growing list of injured players.
"We got good work in today," said Coach Pinkel. "It was a real competitive practice. We don't practice in pads two days in a row very often in spring football."
Add Tavon Bolden to the injury list, as he joined Tristen Holt, Donovan Bonner, Jaleel Clark, L'Damian Washington, Elvis Fisher, Beau Brinkley, Marcus Malbrough, Dominique Hamilton, Corey Sudhoff, Derrion Thomas, Luke Lambert, and Will Ebner, on the sidelines. In addition, Wes Kemp wore a red pull-over, and was limited to non-contact drills.
There was quite a buzz around the facilities today, as numerous scouts, and NFL executives were already on hand, as well as quite a number of college and high school coaches. There were also several high school players in attendance, including 2012 Austin Black, from Warrenton, 2013 prospects Joe Burkett, and Thomas Lepage, from Jefferson City, as well as several players, along with the coaching staff, from Kansas City Central High School. Several members of the new Cincinnati Bearcats' coaching staff were present.
Several players took turns receiving punts, including T.J. Moe, Kip Edwards, Marcus Murphy, Gahn McGaffie, and E.J. Gaines.
Trey Barrow received the snap while standing about 3 yards deep in the end zone, and punted the ball out of bounds, inside the 30-yard line, a punt that traveled almost 75 yards in the air. That's longer than his usual punts, which typically travel 50-60 yards in the air.
During the 1-on-1 pass rush drill, Dan Hoch picked up a closely contested win over Jacquies Smith. Wuebbels stone-walled Marvin Foster. Jack Meiners moved his feet well, and picked up a win over Brad Madison. Jacquies Smith powered his way past Nick Demien. Lucas Vincent bull-rushed his way past Demien. George White registered a win over Mitch Morse.
During 7-on7s, Andrew Wilson went over T.J. Moe's back to knock a James Franklin pass attempt away. Franklin found Rolandis Woodland out along the left side. Robert Steeples came up quickly to stop Woodland for a short gain. Franklin dropped one off to Greg White, out in the right flat. White turned it up to near a first down. Franklin threw a bullet over a couple of defenders down along the right sideline, finding Kerwin Stricker for a big gain. Franklin stuck that one into a small window. That was a real nice throw! Then, Franklin stuck one in to Lucas, who made a nice catch in a crowd, as he came across the middle on a deep crossing route. Nice throw and catch!
Ashton Glaser hit Marcus Lucas out in the left flat. Randy Ponder came up quickly to make the stop. Glaser found McGaffie, who was sitting down near the left seam. Marcus Lucas had a step on Trey Hobson, as they raced down the right sideline. Glaser's pass fell just off of Lucas' fingertips. Glaser came back, and found Wesley Leftwich out along the right sideline. Leftwich was out of bounds. He didn't catch the ball, either, as he fought the ball. Glaser hit Kendial Lawrence out along the left sideline. Kip Edwards came up to make the stop, after a short gain. Glaser found Jerrell Jackson over in the left seam. Jackson quickly turned it up for a first down. Hunt dropped Glaser's pass that had hit him right in the hands.
Tyler Gabbert surveyed the field, then scrambled to his right, and turned it up for a short gain. Gabbert hit Steven Drain near the right hash mark, for a completion. Then, Gabbert experienced a moment of indecision. He dropped back to pass, and started to throw the football. But, he stopped his throwing motion, and the ball came out and landed on the ground near the line of scrimmage. Gabbert quickly came back and found McGaffie over on the left side, near the left hash mark. Gabbert hit Lucas out along the left sideline, in front of Gaines. Gabbert threw a well-timed pass to Jerrell Jackson, as he ran toward the left sideline. Nice throw and catch!
Ryan Howerton completed a pass to Drain, who was sitting down over the middle. Howerton found Bud Sasser out along the left sideline. Sasser went up and made a nice leaping grab, then got his feet down in-bounds.
During 11-on-11 action, Greg White took a Franklin hand-off, and turned it up inside for a nice gain. Franklin found Sasser running down the left seam. Sasser turned his hips and caught the ball, without slowing down. The receiver ran a stop and go down the right sideline, but Franklin threw the stop. Trey Hobson was right there to make the interception, and returned it the distance. Then, Franklin faked a hand-off to Murphy, who was going left, and sprinted out to his right, under pressure from Jacquies Smith, and found Michael Egnew down along the right sideline. That play demonstrates what I consider to be one of the big differences between Franklin and the other two QBs in this competition.
Franklin has shown the ability to remain unflustered when under pressure, and to make plays when things are starting to heat up.
Lucas made a real nice catch in traffic, of a slip screen pass from Franklin, just inside the numbers on the right side of the field. Franklin hit Eric Waters on a quick hitter, out along the right side. Waters caught it in stride, and took it up field for a nice gain. Franklin hit Sasser right in stride, and Sasser took it in right at the pylon, at the right front corner of the end zone. Ponder was right there, but the throw was perfect, and Sasser just tuned his hips to make the catch, never slowing down. Beautiful!
Ashton Glaser found McGaffie sitting down near the left seam, for near first down yardage. Glaser rolled out to the right, searching for an open receiver. He was under increasingly intense pressure from Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison, before Madison tagged him to the ground. Glaser hit Sasser out along the left side.
Gaines and Darvin Ruise were right there to make the stop. Glaser scrambled up the middle. Marcus Murphy took a pitch from Glaser, and got the corner around the right side for a first down.
Tyler Gabbert scrambled out to his left, under intense pressure from Kony Ealy, among others, and unloaded the ball out of bounds. Gabbert hit Jerrell Jackson on a slant for six. Nice throw and catch! Lawrence took an inside hand-off over the left side for a nice gain. Zavier Gooden got into the back field, and tackled Gabbert before he could complete the pitch to Josey.
Once again, the defensive end position appears to be one of the strongest positions on the team. Jacquies Smith appears to be intent on raising his game, as he is all business, and has been a disruptive force in the back field, and along the line of scrimmage. Amazingly, because he was already really good, it appears that Brad Madison may be one of, if not the most improved of the Tigers' DEs. He's been terrorizing the QBs, and is very productive in stopping both the run and the pass. He's clearly Missouri's best pass rusher, and is improving his repertoire of pass rush moves. Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are both much improved, as well. Ealy may be the most improved of the DEs, but he is also probably the one with the most potential to improve even more. Brayden Burnett and Matt Hoch are both quality DEs. Burnett is another very productive player, and Hoch just looks like a natural at his new position.
"It's a full scrimmage," said Coach Pinkel, talking about Saturday's first spring scrimmage. "We want to get fifty plays with each of the top three units. It's all situational.............................. It's all scripted. You know how we do that."
Bud Sasser continues to lead, by my view, in the competition to join T.J. Moe in the starting line-up at the WR position. I spoke with Sasser after practice, and have some of his thoughts on the way.