Despite this being the off season with spring football a couple of months behind us, and the start of 2011 pre-season camp well over a month away, it doesn't mean that Missouri Tiger football players are taking time off.
Football is a year round sport with those who want to get better constantly working to improve themselves both physically and with their skills to maximize their performances during the regular season.
The incoming freshman who signed with the Tigers are all on campus, attending summer classes and working out. Early reports are that they look good and are adjusting to college life well. Only Brandon Hannah from Chaminade did not make it from the 2011 class and is enrolled at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
The veteran players have also been on campus since early June and have been doing workouts organized by seniors and have also been conducting some player organized 7 on 7 football.
Here is some insight based on some of the summer action that is taking place and who is standing out.
Number one QB James Franklin has been having a strong offseason and has looked very good in 7 on 7. James has improved upon his passing and decision making since spring and has taken on a stronger leadership role. Franklin has been making good reads, understands the offense and have been very accurate since taking on the starter role since the spring.
Incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser has also looked solid in 7 on 7. Berkstresser does not have the offense down yet and is still working on making all of the defensive reads, but his raw talent shows threw and he is doing well letting everyone see his physical abilities and skills with a strong accurate arm. Once he learns the offense, he will be a factor in the QB competition.
The veteran receivers such as Kemp, Jackson, Egnew and Moe are all looking good. A player who has been working hard and making some noise during the summer in workouts and 7 on 7 is Jimmie Hunt, who is standing out with his play and hard work. I am hearing that Jimmie is looking very good with his 7 on 7 play and looks like he could be a factor if he stays healthy and with a full camp.
Marcus seems to be making big strides and continues to improve his game to make a run at more playing time this coming season.
The receiver with potential the biggest upside seems to be Wesley Leftwich from an athletic standpoint and work ethic wise. I have been told by several sources that Leftwich could be the best overall athlete on the team. He also has been willing to do whatever the veterans have told him to improve his game. Once his football skills catch up with his athleticism he could be a difference maker or possible game-breaker in the Tiger offense.
I know during spring football that Wes showed signs of being able to stretch the field and get behind the Tiger defensive backs pretty easily. Wesley has been standing out in 7 on 7 play this summer and could be a factor as soon as everything clicks for him.
There has also been a lot of praise for the Tiger running back corps. Despite having strong veterans like Devion Moore,Kendial Lawrence and speedy Henry Josey, it appears as though the Tigers have a stable of backs that goes 5 players deep. By that I mean that players and coaches are feeling that any of the 5 could be the potential starter for this team or other teams in the Big 12.
White is a bigger back that can be a load to stop and move a pile once he gets up a head of steam. He has also improved his pass catching abilities and that makes him tough coming out of the backfield on a swing for defensive backs to take on one on one as we saw in the spring.
Marcus Murphy is having a very strong summer and is getting some high praise. Murphy seems to have improved his speed and is noticeably faster in 7 on 7 workouts. Murphy was never slow, but was more quick then straight-line fast. Getting faster has helped him and will make him an even bigger threat running the ball, catching it and on special teams. Murphy might be the best receiving back the Tigers have.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tiger cornerbacks are doing a very good job and drawing a lot of praise from those having to go up against them in 7 on 7.
Sophomore CB Edwin Gaines, better known as EJ to you and I, has been the Tigers best defender of the summer in 7 on 7. Gaines has great instincts for the game and makes great reads and covers like a blanket. He is looking like the best cornerback potentially of the Pinkel era if not in a long time.
Fellow starting CB Kip Edwards has also performed well, and the possibility is there for this to be the Tigers best cornerback duo in many, many years.
All of the Tiger defensive backs have been putting in the work and making for some tough competition during the summer workouts.
All of the Tiger players have been putting in the time,effort and hard work needed to pay off on the field this coming season.