On Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri Tigers opened spring football with a light practice in shorts and helmets on Faurot Field. It was windy, but the weather was otherwise very cooperative, and everyone seemed to enjoy being outdoors.
There was a large number of players who did not practice. Coach Pinkel said afterwards that this is the most players that he's ever had miss the beginning of spring ball.
Henry Josey, Mark Hill, and Marvin Foster were each present in street clothes, recovering from surgeries. Josey will have his second surgery soon, and his availability for the 2013 season is in question, as is Hill's availability. Foster is expected to return in the fall, with a projected return date of September.
Bud Sasser, who is lining up with the TEs, sat out today with a hamstring. He's expected to return soon. So is Chris Freeman, who suffered some minor injuries in an automobile accident earlier today, and missed practice. Brayden Burnett missed practice with the "flu".
"I think overall, practice was good," began Coach Pinkel, talking about the first practice of the spring. "We just got a lot of players that didn't practice today for injuries and other things, half of our depth at offensive line. We're going to work through it. And, we'll try to get the continuity as we go."
In addition to Bud Sasser, Jaleel Clark also lined up with the TEs. Coach Pinkel shed a little light on that.
"That tight end position is if we choose to play with four wide receivers," explained Coach Pinkel. "We'll have another set with a tight end eventually that we'll play with as an inside player. Eric Waters will do that. We used to do that with Danario Alexander. That's all that is."
Tuesday's practice was conducted without pads, and there was essentially no hitting. There was a lot of emphasis and time spent on individual position drills, and working on fundamental technique.
E.J. Gaines and Marcus Murphy worked receiving punts, and T.J. Moe stood nearby that group. Moe didn't field any punts after he limped off of the field during a receiving drill.
Darius White passes the eye test. He's a good-looking athlete, with good size, and agility. He had a couple of drops on Tuesday, but he's just getting used to the routine.
During the abbreviated 7-on-7s, James Franklin hit Jared McGriff-Culver with a crisp, well-timed pass out in the right flat. E.J. Gaines made a real nice interception of a Franklin pass that was intended for L'Damian Washington. Washington ran about 30-35 yards down the right seam and Franklin's pass appeared to be pretty well on target. Gaines stepped up at the last, and went up to make a very athletic grab near the goal line. Later, Kip Edwards had good coverage on Washington running down the left sideline. Franklin's throw was on target near the pylon, but Edwards prevented Washington from getting to the ball. Franklin found Jimmie Hunt near the left sideline, behind the linebackers, and in front of the safeties. Franklin found Eric Waters for a completion on a delayed cross. Waters turned it up before he was met by Andrew Wilson. Franklin hit Marcus Lucas right in stride out along the left sideline. Nice throw and catch in front of the defensive back.
Corbin Berkstresser completed a pass to Tyler Hunt out in the right flat. Berkstresser connected with Sheldon Gerau out along the left sideline to move the chains. Berkstresser hit Clark out along the left sideline.
Ashton Glaser hooked up with Jaleel Clark out in the right seam, in front of Robert Steeples. Darvin Ruise was in the area, as well. Kerwin Stricker hauled in a Glaser pass near the right sideline, in front of Ruise. Donovan Bonner stepped in front of a Glaser pass thrown over the middle. Bonner had both hands on the ball, but it fell incomplete.
Alex Demczak's pass attempt was thrown behind the receiver on a crossing route. Then, Demczak hooked up with Gerau for a completion.
As stated, Tuesday was mostly individual drills, working on fundamentals, with no contact. And, it seemed as if almost half the team is sidelined with injuries. But, it was football.
Among those who caught my eye on Tuesday was Marcus Murphy, who looks really adept as a receiver. He catches the football in his hands away from his body, and he displays the ability to turn at the waist and make catches without breaking stride.
Kendial Lawrence showed some legit speed as he blew up some of the defenders' pursuit angles.
Marcus Lucas and E.J. Gaines looked terrific! Those are two of the guys that just jump out at you, as they make plays all over the field.
I thought Rolandis Woodland looked good on Tuesday. There was no contact, but Woodland ran smoothly, and caught the football.
Kerwin Stricker appeared to be healthy, and he was impressive. He's explosive, and he catches the football very well. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a factor.
Jimmie Hunt appears to have stepped forward. He's improved, and was getting reps with the second unit at the Z WR position on the outside, behind Washington.
Braylon Webb is noticeable in the secondary. He's around the football, and seems to have a knack for making plays. He's as talented as any of Missouri's safeties.
The Tigers will practice on Thursday in shorts and helmets, Friday in helmets and shoulder pads, and will be in full pads on Saturday.