Saturday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced on grass for more than two hours in helmets and shoulder pads.
"We got a break with the weather today, so that was kind of nice," said Coach Pinkel, following Saturday's workout under an overcast sky. "We had a good practice, overall. We did a lot of things. With the shoulder pads on, the intensity, the physicalness of the practice changes, the level changes. It was very competitive. Overall, we got in a lot of good work."
There are no new injuries to report. Henry Josey, Justin Britt, and Lucas Vincent wore red jerseys and did not participate in drills. T.J. Moe wore a red pull-over and went through most drills. Russell Hansbrough shed his pull-over and participated fully.
During the early parts of practice, players worked in their position groups, working on fundamentals, and running plays against air. Then, the linemen paired up for their 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Three players really stood out to me. Elvis Fisher won 3 out of 4 while going against Brad Madison. Madison is very difficult to block in these drills, which are definitely weighted in favor of the defense. And, for Fisher to win 3 out of 4 is a fairly dominant performance. Sheldon Richardson was fairly dominant, as well. He held an advantage over Jack Meiners in the 1-on-1s that carried over into the 11-on-11s, as well. Thirdly, Harold Brantley won a couple of battles while going against Max Copeland. Brantley's already getting limited reps against a second-team guy, so that's a positive sign for him, and he performed very well at that level of competition.
During 11-on-11 action, Sheldon Richardson continued to wreak havoc with Jack Meiners and the first team offensive line. Then in between plays, Sheldon was instructing Harold Brantley. Richardson is one of the stories of early fall camp. He's in the best shape of his life, and he has turned up his motor.
James Franklin found Gahn McGaffie in the right flat. Kenronte Walker came across, but McGaffie made him miss and picked up about five yards before rest of the troops arrived. Michael Sam beat Taylor Chappell with an inside rush. Franklin rolled right and unloaded it in the direction of Marcus Lucas. E.J. Gaines had tight coverage on Lucas. Franklin tried to squeeze one in to Eric Waters, in between Andrew Wilson and Walker, but Waters didn't come up with it. Franklin got one to Bud Sasser out along the left sideline for a short gain. Sasser went down to scoop that one off of the ground. Sheldon Richardson burst through on the inside for a sack. On the next play, Franklin pulled it down and scrambled for the first down. Later, Franklin got one to Lucas out along the right seam near the first down marker. McGaffie took a screen pass, and got good blocks from Waters and L'Damian Washington for a big gain up the right sideline. Franklin hit McGaffie right in stride on a slant for a score.
Corbin Berkstresser took a high snap and ran right for a short gain. Berkstresser completed a quick throw to Jimmie Hunt near the left hash for a first down. Greg White took a hand-off and ran over the left side for a short gain. Berkstresser found Jared McGriff-Culver in the right seam for a first down. Kony Ealy broke through on the edge and forced Berkstresser to unload the football. Berkstresser hit Rolandis Woodland for a first down on an out route along the left sideline in front of Randy Ponder. Berkstresser's next pass sailed out of bounds untouched. Woodland went down to a knee for a first down reception in the left seam. Berkstresser found Jimmie Hunt out in the left flat. Hunt made a couple of guys miss, and picked up about five yards. Berkstresser's pass hit Woodland in the hands, but fell incomplete.
Maty Mauk brought the third-team offense out against the number three defense. Tyler Hunt took a hand-off and ran left for a nice gain to near the first down marker. Brayden Burnett beat Jordan Williams to the outside and collapsed the pocket. Mauk stepped up inside and scrambled for a first down. Sean Culkin made a real nice reception over near the right sideline. He went up high to snatch a pass from Mauk, and held on despite taking an airborne hit from David Johnson. Mauk's pitch was behind Miles Drummond, and it ended up on the ground. Drummond covered it. Mauk scrambled right and threw the ball away. Then, Mauk hit Dorial Green-Beckham in the hands, but the freshman let the ball get into his body, and the pass fell incomplete. Mauk scrambled right and found Culkin for a first down near the right sideline. Russell Hansbrough took a hand-off and ran right for a nice gain. He showed some elusiveness on that run. Mauk found Culkin sitting down near the right hash for a first down. Mauk came back to Culkin in the left seam for another first down completion. Morgan Steward took a hand-off and ran right. The edge was sealed, so Steward cut it back up inside for a nice gain.
Miles Drummond took a hand-off from Eric Laurent and ran around the left side. He got the corner and sped his way into the end zone. Interestingly, Harold Brantley came from the inside, and was the closest one to catching him.
Another young guy who has been standing out, and who is making a serious bid for playing time this season is freshman TE Sean Culkin. He seems to be ahead of the freshman learning curve. He's getting open and catching the football. Coach Pinkel was asked about Culkin?
"Yeah. He looks pretty good," replied Coach Pinkel. "I mean, he's moving well. He's about 232-233 (pounds). But, I think anybody out here watching is saying, whoa, who's this guy? You know, we thought that when we were recruiting him. We thought that he'd be a pretty high level player coming from a small high school. He's certainly making his mark!"
Coach Pinkel shared some of his early impressions of fall camp.
"I think we're working hard," explained Coach Pinkel. "That's all I'm looking for. What are we doing every drill? What are we doing every period? That's all part of the process. That's all I'm focused on. I just look at the intensity and tempo of practice to make sure that we're not lethargic in any way, that we're not out here (just) trying to make it through practice, that we're trying to get better. I look at position groups and personnel all practice long. I make lots of notes on different things."
Coach Pinkel shared some of his thoughts about teaching the young players to practice the way that Missouri practices?
"That's ongoing," explained Coach Pinkel. "We do things certain ways, and the young guys slowly figure it out. They're getting better at it. We recognize that we're asking young guys to change some of their practice habits. We counsel them. We explain to them that what we do works, and they're going to do it how we do it."