The Missouri Tigers returned to the practice field on Saturday morning for a two-and-a-half-hour workout on grass, in helmets and shoulder pads. Contact was limited to above-the-waist, with an emphasis on being smart. Afterwards, Coach Pinkel talked about getting to practice in shoulder pads for the first time this fall.
"Overall, it was a real good practice. I thought we had a lot of intensity," said Coach Pinkel. "When the shoulder pads go back on, the intensity level cranks up. But, you also have to be smart about how you practice. I thought there was a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. I thought it was just a great effort. If we match that every day, then we're going to become a good football team."
In addition to Marcus Murphy, who had shoulder surgery last week, and is out for the season, Eric Waters and Gahn McGaffie have joined the injury list. Waters began the day in a red jersey, and sat out all drills, with what Coach Pinkel said is a "turf toe". McGaffie pulled up lame during drills with what Coach Pinkel called a "strained hamstring". Coach Pinkel said that neither injury was "serious", but indicated that both might miss some practice time.
McGaffie, who is listed second at the H WR spot, behind T.J. Moe, can ill-afford to lose practice time. Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt, two fast-rising receivers, are breathing hard down his neck. Besides Jerrell Jackson, who continues to have a good camp, and T.J. Moe, I think that Sasser and Hunt are the two WRs that really stand out from the others. Sasser is just a terrific all-around receiver. He seems to do everything well. Hunt had as good a day of practice today as I have seen from him. He seemed more focused, just more zeroed in. He possesses unique run-after-catch ability, and turned several catches up-field for additional yardage today. Hunt was also working as a punt-returner today, along with T.J. Moe, and seemed to be more focused there, as well. I didn't see him drop anything all day.
L'Damian Washington and Wesley Leftwich each have great speed at the X WR spot, that allows them to get behind people. However, they each have occasional drops. Actually, of all of the true freshmen, Leftwich appears today to be the closest to being ready to play. And, he brings something to the team, as well. I think that Leftwich runs to, and catches, the deep passes as well, or better, than anyone on the team. He has the speed, and unlike Washington, who also has the speed, Leftwich doesn't slow down when he looks up for the ball. He accelerates, and adjusts, to the football in the air as well as anyone. Sasser and Hunt do a good job on those deep throws, too. But, they're not quite as fast as Leftwich.
Today, James Franklin had his best day of practice, and maybe his best day at Missouri. Franklin throws the deep ball as well as any of Coach Pinkel's QBs at Missouri. He lays it out there for them to run to. Franklin's also very good on the sideline throws, and on the swing passes. He's not as good on the throws in the middle of the field. He had a good day today, but you can tell that he's not as comfortable throwing the ball into the middle of the field.
Another thing that Franklin does very well, and that he displayed today with a high degree of expertise, is the way that he runs the option, especially the pitch option to the outside, that was virtually a wasted play with Blaine Gabbert running it. Franklin really runs this play well. He reads the defense, and either attacks the line of scrimmage, before possibly pitching the ball late, or he'll pitch it early, if the back has the edge. His pitches are similar to his swing passes, in that he lays the ball out in front of the back, and allows him to run to it. Consequently, the back catches the ball with an opening and a full head of steam. On these plays, Franklin is like a point guard, who penetrates, before laying it off. He reminds me a little bit of Joe Montana, in the intelligence with which he runs those plays.
Today's practice included some 1-on-1s, in pass receiving/defending, as well as in pass rushing/protection. And, there was a longer segment devoted to the 11-on-11s.
During the 1-on-1 passing drills, Henry Josey ran a crisp route to get separation from Darvin Ruise. James Franklin hit Josey right in stride, as he was coming out of his break, placing the ball out in front, away from Ruise. Kerwin Stricker went down for a nice fingertip grab of a slant pass that Franklin threw a little low.
Jimmie Hunt beat Cortland Browning on a deep slant to haul in a nice pass from Jimmy Costello. Robert Steeples reached in and broke up a pass intended for Brandon Gerau. L'Damian Washington streaked past Trey Hobson on a skinny post, for a nice reception. Tristen Holt closed late, down the left sideline, and stripped the ball away from Rolandis Woodland, for a pass break-up.
During the 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, Dan Hoch moved his feet, stayed in good position, and picked up a win over Jacquies Smith. Austin Wuebbels re-gripped, and stayed with it, winning against Terrell Resonno. Dominique Hamilton, who appears to be quicker this year, and is having a very good early camp, used a powerful rip-through maneuver to get past Jayson Palmgren for a sack. Jimmy Burge bull-rushed his way past Justin Britt.Michael Egnew for a first down out along the left sideline. Zaviar Gooden was right there, but Franklin put the ball to the outside, and Egnew used his body to create some space to make the catch. Franklin zipped one in to Brandon Gerau, over the middle, in front of Kenji Jackson. That was a smaller window, and Franklin really fired it in there.
L'Damian Washington had a step on Braylon Webb, running deep down the right sideline, but Ashton Glaser's perfectly thrown pass went right through his hands. Glaser found Henry Josey out in the left flat for a nice gain. Glaser faked a hand-off, and went deep down the right sideline to Wesley Leftwich for the completion. Leftwich had gotten well behind Hobson and Davis, and had to stop to wait for the ball. Leftwich does a real good job of tracking those deep passes. He quickly adjusted to the under-thrown ball. The defenders were trying to catch up, and never located the football. Leftwich went up high, and caught the ball at the apex. He's a hard-worker, very coach-able, and is rapidly improving. He's going to develop good practice habits, and he's going to just keep getting better. He has a very high ceiling.
It is in the 11-on-11s, where Franklin is at his best. Here, instead of forcing a throw, as I've seen him do in the 7-on-7s, when his receivers are covered, he pulls it down and runs up the field. This adds a whole other dimension to the offense, and it's going to give defenses nightmares. As the first teams lined up, it looked like Franklin changed the play at the line of scrimmage, then he handed it to Kendial Lawrence, who skirted around the right side for about 6 yards. Franklin dropped back and hung in the pocket against a strong rush, then pulled it down and took off up the middle. Facing a third down, Franklin found Wes Kemp for a first down near the right hash. Kemp did a good job of settling down in front of Matt White, right at the first down marker. Franklin attacked the line of scrimmage, then when he had drawn the defense toward himself, he pitched the ball to De'Vion Moore, who sped up along the left sideline for a first down. Franklin handled a bad snap, on the ground, then quickly got the ball to Moe, out along the left sideline, for a first down. Moore took an inside hand-off, and made his way up inside for about 4 yards.
Later, Franklin completed a pass to Jerrell Jackson for a first down out along the left hash. Franklin fitted that one in nicely, in between Zaviar Gooden and Trey Hobson. He had good velocity on that one, and it was a nice catch in traffic, too!. Egnew went up in the air, near the left seam, to pull down a high pass from Franklin. Franklin jumped high to pull down a snap, then he handed it to Lawrence, who showed a nice burst, and took it up inside for a first down.
Trey Hobson knocked Glaser's pass down at the line of scrimmage. Glaser made a good decision on the next play, as he kept it, and ran up inside for a couple of yards. Glaser was under a rush, and just unloaded the ball into the turf. Another good decision. Glaser faked an inside hand-off, then hit Hunt out along the left side for a 6-yard gain. Glaser found Hunt on a cross for a first down. Hobson had the coverage. Later, Glaser threw a jump-pass to Greg White for a first down, out along the right side. Hunt took a short pass from Glaser on the tunnel screen, and showed real explosion and elusiveness, in turning it into a big gain. Later, Glaser found Hunt again, deep down the left hash, for a score. Hunt had gotten behind Tyler Davis and Ian Simon.
Costello hooked up with Marcus Lucas on the inside screen for a short gain. Costello dropped a snap, and fell on it. Then, Costello hit Sasser on the slant for a nice gain, in front of Tavon Bolden. Costello overthrew Kerwin Stricker deep down the left hash. Costello was a little more accurate today.
Berkstresser hit Dan Carpenter out in the right flat. Ian Simon and Tony Randolph were right there to make the stop. Berkstresser's pitch was behind Greg White, who turned it up field, fumbled, and then covered his own fumble near the original line of scrimmage. Hunt came back for Berkstresser's pass, then turned it up, and avoided the first tackler, to pick up a first down. Berkstresser found Sasser over the middle for another first down. Nice throw and catch! Josey took a pitch from Corbin, and sped around the left side before Will Ebner, Kony Ealy, and others arrived. Berkstresser threw the ball deep down the right side, where L'Damian Washington had gotten behind Kip Edwards. It was well-thrown, and Washington made the catch, falling into the end zone. Berkstresser looked down field, then dropped it off to Josey out in the right flat. This time, he hit Josey on the move, and he turned it up for a nice gain, before Andrew Wilson ran him out of bounds. Washington dropped Berkstresser's next pass, out along the right sideline. He tried to catch the ball against his body, and the ball went right through his hands.
Berkstresser couldn't corral a bouncing snap, and the defense swarmed in to cover the football. Gerrand Johnson was in there, and Derrion Thomas came up with the football.