Tigers See Play Maker Developing In Gaines

ShowMeMizzou.com takes a closer look at the play of cornerback EJ Gaines and gets his thoughts on his develop,emt as a player along with Tiger coaches thoughts on how the young defensive backs season is turning out.

After a somewhat slow start in his first season as a starting corner for the Missouri Tigers, sophomore Edwin Gaines has recovered nicely. Through his first seven starts, Gaines is third on the team, with 41 total tackles, including 2.5 TFLs, and leads his team, with 2 INTs, and 7 PBUs. He has also forced a fumble.

Recently, Gaines has taken over the punt return duties, and he is averaging 18.4 yards/return, on 5 returns, including 1for a TD. Gaines talked about returning punts.

"It's fun! I mean, I haven't handled the ball since high school, when I played running back," said Gaines. "It's always fun getting the ball back in my hands, to see what I can do with it."

Against Oklahoma State, Gaines came up with an interception in the end zone, then brought it out and returned it 54 yards, to set Missouri up at the Oklahoma State 46-yard line. He talked about the decision to bring it out.

"(After I made the interception), I turned around to look, to see what I had going for me," said Gaines. "Kip (Edwards) was saying, ‘Take it out. Take it out.' Everybody else was saying, ‘Don't.' My instinct was to try to make a play for my football team. I saw a lot of green, and I saw a lot of Missouri football players out there to block for me."

His head coach was among those saying, ‘Don't.'

"I screamed, ‘stay in the end zone!'," replied Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, when he was asked about his immediate reaction to Gaines' interception. "That was the first thing I did. It's interesting, because we showed that play in front of our team, because it was a big play in the game. We show big plays. That was really a great play………………………………………. I told (our team) that 95% of the time, if you come out, generally what's going to happen, is you're going to get tackled, trying to come out, where you get the ball to the four, five, or six, or seven-yard line, and then the offense has that whole distance to go. That's why we want to keep it in there, and get the ball at the twenty, unless by some chance, you've got a clear shot to be able to run."

"Bottom line is, he's a heck of an athlete," continued Coach Pinkel. "And, I think it showed a little bit of his will. You know, we're struggling out there, and here's a guy that says, ‘I'm going to make something happen. I'm going to do it!' And, he's athletic enough that he can do it. So, he's just got to be able to separate the discipline of making sure you stay in the end zone to using good judgment when you bring it out. But, there's no question about it. I mean, you see him as a punt returner. That's why we moved him to punt returner, also. He's really a heck of an athlete! To me, it was a little bit of, ‘I'm going to make something happen for our football team.' And, he did………………………………….. And, what a phenomenal play! The defensive players blocking for him, and he got it all of the way beyond mid-field. It was a huge, huge football play! It was nice to see that, and you'll see him do things like that a lot. He's a very talented young guy."

Gaines talked about making the transition from high school to playing in the Big 12.

"This is a good football league," explained Gaines. "You've got to get a feel for the game, when you come out here. It's not like high school, where you get it done with your athleticism. You've got to know what you're doing. You've got to be focused. It really is (a big step up). I feel like a lot of people sometimes don't realize the step up that it is, and the amount of time that you have to get out there to get used to the football game, and get used to the speed of the game."

"(Gaines) is a great athlete playing corner," said Coach Pinkel. "If he does all of the right things, he can be a great, great player. Meaning, continue to develop, and continue to work hard, and strength, speed, and quickness, and all of the other things……………………………………….. I think he's a very natural corner. He has closing speed. He has a burst. He's a really good athlete. He has a lot of poise……………………………………… I think he's coming along very well. I think he's getting better and better."

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