On Saturday morning, the Missouri Tigers continued their bowl game preparation with a two-hour practice in full pads. It was a much more physical practice than on Friday, with several live, or controlled-contact, periods.
"I thought it was a good practice," said Coach Pinkel. "We had full pads on today, so that was good. It was very physical. We accomplished the goals that we want. Everybody got a little bit of work, and certainly we got some work with our young players, too. I felt good about that. It was a real high energy practice, which was good."
The only change in the injury list from Friday is that Cortland Browning wore a red jersey, and sat out practice today. Matt Hoch says that he will be back at practice next week, and that he will be able to play in the bowl game.
Practice got underway with a special teams period, during which Second-Team All-Big 12 punter, Trey Barrow, boomed punts off of the ceiling of the indoor practice facility.
The Devine Pavilion swelled with people, as more than twenty recruits and their families came in about half-way through practice, and made their way onto the sidelines to watch the action.
At the end of practice, the team formed a circle, and the assistant coaches presented each recruit to the team. There was a lot of cheering, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
During the 1-on-1 pass rush drill, Coach Henson was seen instructing many of the offensive linemen, taking time after almost each rep to show them their footwork, hand placement, or some other fundamental teaching point. Kony Ealy has been having his way with Chris Freeman in this drill, except for one repetition today, when Freeman bested Ealy. The big lineman set up quickly, and extended his long arms, contacting Ealy, and keeping him at bay. Afterwards, once Coach Henson was finished patting Freeman on the helmet, Ealy stepped across and gave Freeman a pat on the helmet, praised him, and encouraged him. That was good to see. On their next repetition, Ealy bull-rushed Freeman, and just simply shoved the big man onto his back.
Speaking of Freeman, you'd hardly recognize him from the guy who arrived at Missouri sixteen months ago. He couldn't even get through practice that first camp, and now, he just looks like a completely different guy. If Freeman continues to progress like he has, he'll develop into a player. Going against Ealy is a challenge for the big man. Of course, going against the other second-team defense end, Michael Sam, is no picnic either. That's the challenge that Taylor Chappell is facing daily. Chappell needs to get bigger and stronger, but his technique is impressive, and he has the quickest feet of any of the young linemen.
Sam picked up a win over Justin Britt. Britt took him to the outside, but Sam dipped back inside to get the sack. Dan Hoch blocked Jacquies Smith. Austin Wuebbels stone-walled Sheldon Richardson for the second straight time. Wuebbels gave up some ground to Dominique Hamilton, but stayed in front of him for the win. Terrell Resonno won a closely contested battle with Jack Meiners. Sam bull-rushed, then spun around, Britt for the win. Ealy beat Freeman. Lucas Vincent won a closely contested battle over Mark Hill. Taylor Chappell did a nice job of moving his feet, to stay with Brayden Burnett for a closely contested victory. Max Copeland did a nice job for a win over Marvin Foster. Mitch Morse picked up a win over a bull-rushing Jimmy Burge. Shane Ray used a spin move to go by Chappell. A little later, Ray just blew past Mike Boddie. Burge picked up a closely contested win over Brad McNulty. Vincent chucked Connor McGovern aside, and sacked the QB.
One of the players' favorite drills is the Tiger drill, which was on display today. It's offense versus defense, individual 1-on-1 match-ups, and a cumulative team score. Two players lay on their backs with their helmets five yards apart. The offensive player has the football. At the whistle, each player jumps to their feet and the ball-carrier tries to pick up the five yards between them. If he gets the five yards, it's a win for the offense. It's full contact, and second effort often gets it done. Players line up across the field, and the whistles blow in rapid succession. Offensive and defensive players line up about 5-10 yards behind their man, and there's lots of cheering, and encouragement. Big hits are appreciated, and victories are celebrated. It's usually one of the more intense individual competitions of the day.
Robert Steeples tackled Rolandis Woodland. Tavon Bolden stopped Jaleel Clark. Jimmie Hunt ran through Xavier Smith's attempted tackle. Greg White ran through Daniel Easterly's attempted tackle. Second effort provided Marcus Murphy with a narrow win over Ian Simon. Bud Sasser ran right over David Johnson, a feat which elicited a collective shout from his offensive teammates, followed by numerous congratulatory pats on the shoulders and helmet. Earnest Payton brought down Wesley Leftwich.
During 11-on-11 preparation for North Carolina, scout team running back Greg White took a pitch from Ashton Glaser, and went off left tackle, where he was met near the line of scrimmage by Robert Steeples. White ran right over the top of Steeples, and continued down field, amid screams of delight from other members of the scout team. This action took place right in front of a number of recruits, who seemed to really get excited about the on-field action.
During 11-on-11, the second-team offense went against the second-team defense. Jimmy Costello reverse pivoted, and Greg White ran into Costello, seemingly unsure of where he was supposed to be. He still managed to get a couple of yards. Costello had his pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. That was either Richardson or Ealy.
Franklin brought out the first-team offense against the first-team defense. Franklin kept it on a pitch-option to the right side, and had a big gain through a gaping hole. Franklin faked a hand-off to Lawrence, and hit Wes Kemp out near the left hash. T.J. Moe caught a Franklin pass out on the right side, and started up field, where he was knocked backwards in a collision with Kenronte Walker. De'Vion Moore took a hand-off over the right side for a big gain.
Corbin Berkstresser dropped back to pass, but Kony Ealy was on top of him before he had time to do anything. Ealy held up, but his momentum knocked the freshman QB off of his feet.
"(Will) sat there with him all night, every night, caring for him, and doing anything that he could to make him feel comfortable," said Coach Pinkel. "I mean, he was just serving (Henry)……………………………………. You know, we have a really tight group of people around here. But, that was a statement beyond statements for people caring about each other, and it certainly really says a tremendous amount about Will Ebner, what kind of person he is."
Coach Pinkel indicated that the NCAA's decision regarding Elvis Fisher's request for a sixth year of eligibility should be known within the next few weeks. He said that Fisher hasn't decided what he's going to do. Coach Pinkel said that they want Elvis to come back, if he's granted an extra year. Coach Pinkel said that once the eligibility hurdle is cleared, that he will "hard recruit" Fisher to return.