The Missouri Tigers were back on Faurot Field on Wednesday morning for a two- and-a-half hour workout in full pads. The weather was partly cloudy, with the temperature in the 70s, offering a welcome respite.
This morning's was the most physical, and most competitive, practice thus far in camp. Coach Pinkel was very pleased.
"It was a very, very competitive practice," said Coach Pinkel. "We talk about competing in everything that we do, competing every play out here, competing in every rep that you have. Instead of just going through the play, and trying to make it through the play, you compete to win the play. I thought it was a very, very competitive practice today. The offense barely won at the end. I thought we became a better football team today."
The outstanding play of starting QB James Franklin set the tone for the day. Once again today, Franklin was impressive, making good decisions quickly, and being crisp with his throws. He was in the middle of the day's deciding play, when on the final series of 11-on-11s, Franklin stood in against a rush, taking a hit just as he delivered a quality pass to T.J. Moe, in the front corner of the end zone for the winning score. Poise in the pocket is just one of the positive characteristics that Franklin consistently demonstrates.
"He's getting better," said coach Pinkel, responding to a question about Franklin. "The last three practices, you see him getting better, and improving. His confidence level is growing....................... He's getting it!"
There's not much to report on from the injury front. Gahn McGaffie continues to wear the red jersey, and sit out all drills. Jaleel Clark wore a red jersey today, and sat out all drills. Not sure about the nature of his injury, but he's fully ambulatory, and showed no noticeable sign of injury. Eric Waters limped off of the field late. Not sure what happened, but again, it didn't appear to be too serious. So far, after the first week of camp, the only injury to seriously affect the depth chart is the season-ending injury to Marcus Murphy.
Speaking of Murphy, the Tigers spent some time today auditioning candidates to take over Murphy's job as the team's primary kick returner. Among those who handled returning kicks today, in order of appearance, were Henry Josey, Kendial Lawrence, Jerrell Jackson, Jimmie Hunt, Wesley Leftwich, and L'Damian Washington. Washington fielded the kick, and raced up into a scrum of players, where he was promptly knocked off of his feet, and separated from the football. I'm thinking that the slender Washington might not be the guy.
Moe, Hunt, and Kip Edwards were fielding punts.
During the 9-on-9 short-yardage work, each QB and corresponding unit rotated through, going against a defensive unit, in a short-yardage down and distance situation. Coach Steckel was right in the middle of the defensive huddle, before and after each play. Henry Josey took a direct hand-off from Franklin and cut it up inside, gaining the 12 yards to the end zone. Greg White took a hand-off over the right side, picking his way through traffic. White has really injected himself into the competition at the TB position! Kendial Lawrence took the hand-off from Franklin, and picked his way over the right side for a nice gain.
During the 1-on-1 pass-receiving drills, Franklin hit Jerrell Jackson on a slant, after he had gotten inside of E.J. Gaines. Jimmy Costello laid the ball onto Lawrence's fingertips, out along the left side. Corbin Berkstresser found Michael Egnew over the middle, in front of Kenronte Walker. Franklin's pass to Wes Kemp on the cross, was high and a little behind him. Kip Edwards was in tight coverage, and Kemp was unable to make the reception. De'Vion Moore used a double move to get behind Darvin Ruise, and was streaking down the middle of the field, but Berkstresser's pass was over-thrown. Franklin hit Waters on a cross. Costello hit Marcus Lucas on a cross. Berkstresser found Jimmie Hunt on a cross, after Hunt had created good separation from Cortland Browning. Hunt continues to impress! Ashton Glaser completed a pass to Rolandis Woodland down along the left sideline. Glaser hit Moe near the right sideline, after Moe had gotten away from Matt White. Berkstresser found Egnew near the left seam. Kip Edwards broke up a pass attempt intended for Wes Kemp. Marcus Lucas made a nice catch of a deep ball in the front right corner of the end zone. After he got behind David Johnson, he looked over his left shoulder for the football, then turned his head to make the catch over his right shoulder.
During another 9-on-9 segment, with the offense coming out from their own end, Dominique Hamilton stuffed Lawrence for no gain. Franklin kept the ball, and picked up some yardage over the left side. A little later, Lawrence laid the ball on the ground. Hamilton and Wilson were in the area. There was quite a pile of people trying to come up with that football! I think the defense recovered it. They were all jumping around like they had won the lottery. Moore took a hand-off, and sped around the right side. Will Ebner and Matt White were there to make the stop. White was stripping at the football. Lawrence took a hand-off from Franklin and cut it up inside for a first down.
During 7-on-7s, Randy Ponder got a hand in to break up Franklin's pass, intended for Jerrell Jackson. Franklin moved around in the pocket, and found Moe late over the middle, in front of Gaines and Ebner. Franklin found Moe sitting down over the middle for a nice gain. Franklin found Kemp in the back of the end zone. He had gotten away from Trey Hobson. Franklin hit Egnew in the left seam for another TD. Jerrell Jackson made a nice leaping grab in the back corner of the end zone on the fade pass from Franklin. Jackson took that one away from the defender, and got his feet down in bounds. It's nice to see Jackson catch the ball in traffic!
Glaser found Waters sitting down in front of Matt White, in the middle of the field, having momentarily eluded Zaviar Gooden. Glaser found Brandon Gerau near the right hash for a first down. Glaser hit Gerau on a deep out along the right sideline. Nice throw and catch!
Costello completed a pass to Jimmie Hunt on a cross for a first down. Costello found Andrew Jones sitting down over the middle, in front of Donovan Bonner. Costello hooked up with Jones over along the left sideline, in front of Darvin Ruise. Costello found Gerau in the back corner of the end zone.
Berkstresser's pass, intended for Wesley Leftwich, was overthrown. Ernest Payton picked off Berkstresser's pass, out along the right sideline. Berkstresser found Jones, sitting down over the middle for a nice gain. Hunt had a step on the defender, but he had to reach back for the football, where he took it off of the defender's shoulder pad.
During the 1-on-1 pass-rush drill, Chris Freeman stone-walled Matt Hoch. Terrell Resonno powered his way past Austin Wuebbels. Brendan Donaldson bull-rushed his way past Robert Luce. Michael Sam used a spin move to get past Jack Meiners. Jimmy Burge picked up a win over Mark Hill. Derrion Thomas sped past Stephen Carberry. Freeman moved his feet, and picked up another win over Hoch. Derrion Thomas picked up a win over Kyle Starke. I couldn't see who the offensive lineman was, because he was prone on the ground, after Kony Ealy had blown by him. Donaldson powered past Nick Demien.
During the shortened Tiger Drill, Kerwin Stricker powered his way through Tavon Bolden's tackle. Marcus Lucas defeated Tyler Davis. Payton mauled Tyler Hunt, then tried to strip the football..
In 11-on-11 action, Franklin found Moe over near the right hash for a first down. Franklin got it to Kemp over along the right sideline, in front of Kenji Jackson and Hobson. Kemp did a nice job of coming back for the football. Brad Madison stopped Moore for a short gain.
In the red zone, Franklin found Moe over along the left side, who took it in for the TD. Lawrence took a hand-off, and went over the left side for a short gain, where he was met by Brayden Burnett, among others. Franklin went to Jerrell Jackson on the fade. Hobson had the coverage, and the ball fell incomplete. Moore tried the left side, and with second effort, he got it in the end zone. Later, Edwards, Smith, and Ebner stopped Lawrence at the goal line.
Henry Josey dropped Glaser's pitch, but covered it to retain possession. They came right back to the same play. This time, Josey controlled the football, but Ealy and Bonner controlled the line of scrimmage, and held him to no gain. Glaser dropped it off to White, who picked his way for a nice gain. On third-and-one, Josey took a direct hand-off off right tackle for the first down. Under a serious outside rush, Glaser tucked it and picked up some positive yardage.
In the red zone, Shane Ray sacked Glaser. Dan Carpenter took Glaser's pitch and started right. Tyler Davis got there first, and Kentrell Brothers cleaned it up. Glaser faked the inside hand-off, and got it out on the right side to Stricker, who worked his way into the end zone.
Costello found Jones sitting down over the middle for near first-down yardage. Costello dropped back, then took off for a nice gain. Looked like a draw. Costello's next pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and Randy Ponder came up with the interception. Jones made a nice catch down the right hash for the first down.
In the red zone, Costello's pass fell incomplete. Josey took a pitch from Costello, and went around the right side. Ebner and Gaines ran him out just short of the pylon. Greg White took a direct hand-off from Costello, and started off left tackle. He was met behind the line of scrimmage, but spun away, and cut it up inside for the score.
Berkstresser hooked up with Sasser on left hash for four yards, then came back to hit Sasser on the slant. Sasser had to snatch that low throw off of his shoe tops. Berkstresser found Washington on a deep cross for a first down.
Berkstresser found Kerwin Stricker out on the right side for a short gain. Stricker took Berkstresser's pass out on the left side, then turned it up for a first down. Berkstresser fired one in to Stephen Drain over the middle, in front of Clarence Green. Berkstresser moved left to avoid the rush, then got it out to Stricker, who was open again, along the right sideline.
In the red zone, Berkstresser's pass was incomplete, thrown in the general direction of Jimmie Hunt. Woodland took a bubble screen in for a TD. On the next play, Tristen Holt came up and tackled Woodland for no gain.
On the final series, Franklin got the ball to Jackson deep down the left sideline. Jackson had gotten behind Edwards for that 25-yard reception. Then, with the day's competition on the line, Franklin stood in against a strong rush and just as he was being hit, he delivered the winning throw to Moe at the front left corner of the end zone.
Besides Franklin, others who stood out today were Greg White, Marcus Lucas, Kerwin Stricker, and as usual, Bud Sasser, and Jimmie Hunt. Hamilton, Madison, and Ealy were once again all over the place, and were frequently in the offensive back field. The starting corners, Edwards and Gaines were tough in coverage, and Ponder and Johnson hung tough, as well.
There's a lot of competition all over the field. After practice, Coach Pinkel said that the competition at WR is very close, and that there are a number of guys who are bunched up. He said that the staff would have to start to narrow things down pretty soon, so that they can start to get the ones who are going to play ready for the first game. He indicated that it would be beneficial to have Franklin working with the guys to whom he will be throwing the football.
Coach Pinkel indicated that a rotation of 7-8 WRs is likely, and that he'd like to see that sort itself out within the next week or two.