Missouri wrapped up fall camp on Thursday afternoon, with their final scrimmage of fall camp. Following the scrimmage, Coach Pinkel was asked what he thought about the just completed 2011 fall camp.
"It was good," replied Coach Pinkel. "The kids worked hard, which his typical of what we do. It gets long, but the best part is we improved. It's just part of the process and here we go into game week."
Now that camp has ended, and the Tigers are in game week preparation for their opener against Miami (OH), ShowMeMizzou.com takes a position-by-position look at what's transpired since August 4th.
James Franklin came into fall camp as Missouri's undisputed starting QB. He's accepted coaching very well, has earned the trust of his teammates, and has built a good rapport with his receivers. We've watched him improve almost daily. Coach Pinkel talked about his starting QB.
"I think overall, and I've said it before, he's got all the skills to be a really, really high level player," began Coach Pinkel, speaking of Franklin. "He did some good things today, and we're excited for him. What's going to be real important, and what's going to happen too to any young quarterback, they'll just keep getting better. They'll make some mistakes, but they'll get better, and better, and better. I know he's excited about getting going."
Franklin talked about the progress that he feels he made this fall.
"I feel pretty good (about it)," said Franklin. "I've come a long way, definitely. It's gotten a lot better with the experience of going out there every day, going over the plays over and over again, learning the offense, and learning how to read the defense. I think that's something that's helped me, and something I've gotten better at since camp started."
Franklin was asked about beginning preparation for his first start against Miami (OH).
"I got a lot of that (experience in game-preparation) last year," explained Franklin. "I know it's not the same as starting, but I think it helped out a lot. Coming into this first game as a starter, I think the biggest thing is treating it like every other game. In the games last year, I was prepared to go out there and compete. I just wasn't the starter. I think the difference now is I'll just go out there and start it off. It's the same as last year (preparation-wise)."
And, Franklin expects to continue to improve throughout the season.
"I think it's going to come into play against better teams," Franklin said, as he looked ahead to his continued improvement. "It's learning the other team's defense, their habits, the things they do, that I can pick up on. That comes with experience, so when I go out there, I think that's the biggest difference in how I learn, just learning different defenses and reacting to them."
I expect that James Franklin will be very, very good. During the three fall camp scrimmages, Franklin completed 68% of his pass attempts, with 10.6 yards/completion, 7.2 yards/pass attempt, and a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio. Those are winning numbers. And, those numbers were put up against Missouri's first and second-team defensive units. But, from what I've seen of Franklin, his numbers alone aren't really representative of his value to the team. His pocket presence and field presence are just amazing! And, his running ability hasn't really been utilized during fall camp. I think Missouri fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by the play of James Franklin.
The back-up QB situation is still somewhat unknown. Ashton Glaser began fall camp as the number two QB, but he has fallen behind both Jimmy Costello and the talented freshman, Corbin Berkstresser. Berkstresser has the goods. The question that the coaching staff will ponder; is he ready to be Franklin's back-up? If Berkstresser plays, he's likely to be the only freshman who does. Costello closed camp with another quality scrimmage. We won't have to wait long for an answer.
Kendial Lawrence took over the starting TB position in the spring, and this fall, he has really separated himself from the other TBs. That's impressive, considering that De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey are both playing better than they did a year ago! Lawrence made a habit of ripping off long runs during the scrimmages.
Camp opened with the news that Marcus Murphy would miss the season, following shoulder surgery. RSF Greg White has looked good this fall. I expect to see him carry the rock some this season. And, don't be surprised if you see Jared Culver lined up in the back field, on occasion. Lawrence and Josey are two of Missouri's primary big-play threats. Lawrence appears to be poised for a big season!
The loss, due to a season-ending knee injury, of three-year starting left tackle Elvis Fisher, was fall camp's biggest disappointment. Injuries were a big story along Missouri's offensive line this fall, as starting center Travis Ruth joined Fisher on the sidelines, and missed most of camp. He's expected to be back soon.
But, the injuries have created opportunities for others, and sophomore Justin Britt, who was slated to take over at left tackle in 2012, gets the call a year earlier. He looks like he's up to the challenge. Jayson Palmgren has done very well, playing center in Ruth's absence, and Jack Meiners has performed very well, after moving in at Palmgren's vacated left guard spot. Austin Wuebbels and Dan Hoch each appear to be poised for their best seasons.
The injuries have tested Missouri's offensive line depth, and that has been most noticeable on the second-team. Red-shirt freshmen, Anthony Gatti, and Mitch Morse, are fixtures on the second team, at left tackle and center, respectively. And, along with sophomore right guard Mark Hill, those three represent the primary back-ups heading into the season, at least until Ruth gets back onto the field.
Sophomore Max Copeland held off Nick Demien for the second-team right guard spot, which he is likely to relinquish when Ruth returns. And as of Thursday, Chris Freeman had retained his spot as the second-team right tackle. A fast-rising freshman, Taylor Chappell, was splitting reps with Freeman during the final week of camp. But barring injuries, I don't expect to see Chappell take the field this season. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see him officially listed with, and working with, the second unit.
Injuries plagued back-up TE Eric Waters throughout camp, creating an opportunity for Andrew Jones, who is playing the best of his career. Michael Egnew was solid throughout camp, and appears to be poised for another great season!
The competition at the WR position was one of the most interesting, and closely contested, of fall camp. We won't have to wait much longer to see what the depth chart will look like heading into the season. Even after we've seen the depth chart, we may still have to wait to see what the rotation at these positions will look like.
Injuries played a part in this competition, as well. Jerrell Jackson has missed most of the second half of camp, and as of Thursday, Marcus Lucas had emerged as the starter at the X WR spot, in Jackson's absence. Jackson is expected to return soon, perhaps for the opener. But, Lucas has established himself as a play maker, and we can expect to see a lot out of him this fall.
At the H WR spot, T.J. Moe and his primary back-up, Gahn McGaffie, have remained stable atop the depth chart. Moe continues to be Missouri's top receiver. After bouts of inconsistency, Jimmie Hunt closed camp with a spectacular showing in the final scrimmage, and surely left an impression on the coaching staff.
Wes Kemp has held onto his starting spot at the Z WR position. Despite his obvious limitations as a down field receiver, Kemp had a good camp, showing improved consistency in catching the shorter routes. And, he continues to display the run-after-catch ability that makes him a play making threat.
Other receivers in the running for playing time include Brandon Gerau, Bud Sasser, L'Damian Washington, and Rolandis Woodland. As I've previously written, Sasser is my choice. He catches the football! And, he gives Missouri a deep-threat at the Z WR spot, as a complement to Kemp.
During camp, kickers and punters are always around, kicking their balls. Most of the time, they're just there. What I've been able to learn about Missouri's kicking game during camp is that the trio of deep-snapper Beau Brinkley, holder Brandon Gerau, and place-kicker Grant Ressel, will be solid. Ressel has added some distance to his kick-offs. Punting, and potentially handling kick-offs, is Trey Barrow. Generally, he's performed well, and has a chance to be Coach Pinkel's best punter at Missouri, although at times this fall, he's been a little inconsistent. Barrow's just about as good at place-kicking as he is at punting. And, the Tigers have some young kickers and punters in camp who show considerable promise for the future.
For most of camp, and in the end, on the scoreboard, the Missouri defense won the ongoing competition with the offense, prevailing on the majority of days, and in two of the three scrimmages. At times, the Missouri defense was simply overwhelming.
Rightfully so, Missouri's DEs get a lot of the attention. The quintet of the virtually unblockable Brad Madison, the very formidable Jacquies Smith, the fast and athletic Michael Sam, the non-stop motor of Brayden Burnett, and the talented and fast-rising Kony Ealy, are a nightmare for any offense, and they showed that on a daily basis during camp. They were constantly in the back field, disrupting everything, blowing up hand-offs, batting down passes, and just generally creating havoc. Falling behind against Missouri, and having to throw the football to catch up, will spell disaster for Missouri's opponents this year.
It's not just Missouri's DEs that spent time in the backfield this fall. No defensive player spent more time in the offensive back field than Dominique Hamilton. On most days during camp, Hamilton was the most dominant player on the football field. Hamilton's running mate, Terrell Resonno, was also very good, and was making plays all over the field. Behind those two, the Tigers have some depth here, as well. Lucas Vincent, Jimmy Burge, Marvin Foster, and Sheldon Richardson are all strong candidates, based on their camp performances, to see the field this year. Vincent and Richardson are really coming on! This is another position where the depth chart, and the playing rotation, may not get settled until a few games have been played.
Linebacker was a position that saw very little movement in the depth chart during fall camp. In the middle, Will Ebner separated himself from Luke Lambert for the starting job. Then, he suffered a concussion, which is not his first, and missed the final week of camp. Ebner is expected to be back in there soon. Freshman Kentrell Brothers had moved up onto the third team, and was playing very well. It looked like Brothers may have seen the field this year, but his season ended on Thursday, when he suffered a broken ankle.
Zaviar Gooden and Andrew Wilson patrol the outside, and each of them enjoyed outstanding fall camps. Wilson has rightfully earned the reputation as one of Missouri's biggest hitters. Darvin Ruise and Donovan Bonner are the next players in. The talented Ruise, just a year removed from being converted from high school QB to major college LB, closed out fall camp with a pick on Thursday.
Injuries to starting safeties Kenji Jackson and Matt White provided opportunities for Kenronte Walker and Braylon Webb to get a lot of work with the first unit, and both showed themselves capable. Webb is really coming on, and is going to see a lot of action this season. Daniel Easterly and Ian Simon got a lot of work with the second unit, as well. Jackson and White are expected to be back on the field soon.
Missouri's starting corners, Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines, are probably Missouri's best pair of corners under Coach Pinkel. Most of the time this fall, Gaines simply locked people down. Edwards displayed the size and coverage ability to defend against some of the bigger receivers that Missouri will face in the Big 12.
Fifth-year senior Trey Hobson has pulled the upset, and has emerged as the third corner. Clearly, Hobson has elevated his play, and played the best of his career during fall camp. In another upset, former walk-on Randy Ponder has moved up onto the second unit, and earned a scholarship in the process. Ponder's been a very pleasant surprise, a little bit like Christmas in August. Robert Steeples continues to be in the mix at corner, and has often been on the field with the first-team defense, when they've brought in an extra DB. Xavier Smith, who missed spring ball with an injury, made up a lot of ground this fall, and has
placed himself right in the mix, as well. Tristen Holt showed flashes this fall, but as of Thursday, he was still pretty far down on the depth chart.
Now, the Tigers turn to their game preparation for Miami (OH), and will hit the practice field on Saturday, and again on Sunday. Then, they'll repeat those two practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Coach Pinkel indicated on Thursday that the staff would meet on Friday to discuss the depth chart heading into week one with the game week depth chart coming out later today.