On Monday, the Missouri Tigers practiced in full pads for the first time this fall. The players seemed to enjoy the more physical nature of practice, and they got after it pretty good. Following practice, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel shared some of his thoughts about his team's first practice in pads.
"Overall, I think it was good," said Coach Pinkel. "We had full pads on today, which is a little bit different. The weather's been a real plus for us, so I think that's been good. We've had enough heat. They've had enough heat all summer."
"I think the (players) always like to be in pads," explained Coach Pinkel. "You know, it's very physical, especially for the guys up front. The offensive and defensive linemen, they get after it pretty good. So, it was a good practice overall. You've got to be physical if you want to win……………………………………….. These kids know how to practice. They get after it."
Coach Pinkel confirmed that Chris Freeman and Steve Drain have left the program. Max Copeland experienced a mild illness (Coach Pinkel called it a virus) and missed the beginning of practice. Then, he showed up about midway through and stood on the sidelines in a red jersey. Henry Josey continues to wear the red jersey, as does Lucas Vincent and Justin Britt. Both of Vincent and Britt participated in the post-practice conditioning, and both appear to be getting closer to a return. Travis Ruth injuries a triceps during practice, and left the field accompanied by a trainer. Brad Madison sat out the second half of practice with what Coach Pinkel called "a rib issue". T.J. Moe and Russell Hansbrough each wore a red pull-over and participated in most drills.
During the various special teams segments, Trey Barrow is competing with Andrew Baggett and Brad Clements for the placekicking job, and with Christian Brinser for the job as punter. Brad Madison and Jake Hurrell did the snapping for the placements, and Braylon Webb, T.J. Moe, and Gahn McGaffie did the holding. Joe Plevel and Mitch Hall did the snapping for the punters, and Moe, E.J. Gaines, Marcus Murphy, Ian Simon, and John Gibson each fielded punts.
Following practice, Coach Pinkel huddled with his team near midfield. Later, he talked about some of the concerns that he had expressed to his team.
"I just think overall it was good," explained Coach Pinkel. "I think that anytime that you're out here, there's certainly a lot of things that need to be fixed. That's what practice is all about. I'm a little concerned about the focus of our football team, to be able to focus to become a great player, to become a great offense or defense. You don't just automatically go into games and you're a focused player. You do it because of through the grind of a long practice, you stay focused. Then you take that, and that makes you a better player with the consistency that you need if you want to be good. So that's just kind of the discussion that I had with the team, and we'll try to improve that. But I think overall it was good work."
During the 1-on-1 pass rush drills, the staff divides the linemen into an A and a B group. Generally, the A group is the first and second unit guys, and the B group is the third and fourth team guys. On Monday, a pair of true freshmen began this drill working with the A group, including Boehm and Harold Brantley. Both players performed well. Connor McGovern began the drill working with the B group, but after dominating a couple of battles, he was quickly moved over to the A group, where he continued to perform well.
Kony Ealy powered his way past Mike Boddie. Harold Brantley bulled his way past Nick Demien. Brantley showed an impressive combination of strength and quickness. Connor McGovern stonewalled Evan Winston. Evan Boehm picked up a closely-contested win over Marvin Foster. Boehm had to re-grip, and moved his feet to stay in front of Foster. Michael Sam blew past Mike Boddie. McGovern was dominant in stonewalling David Butler. That drew McGovern a promotion, and he came right out and blocked Matt Hoch. Brayden Burnett used a spin move to get past Stephen Carberry. Sheldon Richardson bull rushed his way past strongman Jack Meiners. Sheldon pushed Meiners right into the QB. Evan Winston ran through Robert Luce. Anthony Gatti re-gripped and stonewalled a spinning Shane Ray. Meiners came back with a win over Richardson.
With Ruth and Copeland sidelined, Evan Boehm moved up to the first-team offense for the remainder of practice, including 11-on-11s. Kony Ealy moved up to the first team, as well. Connor McGovern moved to second-team left guard. And with Drain's exit, Sean Culkin and Brandon Holifield each moved up to second and third team TE, respectively.
Coach Pinkel talked about Evan Boehm.
"Well, he's a big, strong athlete," said Coach Pinkel, talking about Boehm. "He's a very bright guy. He's very competitive. He fits right in well. You know, one guy's frustration and disappointment is another guy's opportunity………………………………………. It's an opportunity for him as a young player to go up and to show that he can prove himself. The thing that he's fortunate enough, and we knew this when we recruited him, offensive line is probably the most difficult position to play as a true freshman, just because of the physical size and strength that you have to have walking in as a freshman. And, there's so few players that are ready right then and there. The good news is he's physically ready to play. He's a pretty focused young man, and he's got a chance."
During 11-on-11s, Kendial Lawrence took a hand-off from James Franklin, and struggled to get back to the line of scrimmage. Michael Sam, Sheldon Richardson, and others came across the line of scrimmage and surrounded Lawrence in the backfield. Franklin hit Eric Waters near the right sideline for a first down. Matt White stepped in front of a Franklin pass over near the left sideline for an interception. Franklin found Gahn McGaffie on a cross for a short gain. Zaviar Gooden was stride for stride in coverage and quickly made the stop. Franklin's pass attempt, intended for Bud Sasser near the left sideline was incomplete. Gooden had the coverage. Michael Sam chased Franklin out of the pocket, and the junior QB unloaded the football out of bounds. Franklin found Sean Culkin in the left seam for a first down. Franklin found Jimmie Hunt in the right seam in front of Ian Simon. Hunt made a nice move to the inside after the reception and picked up another five yards.
E.J. Gaines jumped in front of a Corbin Berkstresser pass thrown down the right hash and came up with the interception. Darvin Ruise and others stuffed Morgan Steward as he tried to take a pitch around the left side. Berkstresser was under pressure from Shane Ray, and he scrambled out to the left for a short gain before Donovan Bonner and Braylon Webb ran him out of bounds. Berkstresser quickly hit Jimmie Hunt near the right sideline for a nice gain. Cortland Browning and Xavier Smith were right there to escort him out of bounds. Berkstresser found Jaleel Clark in the right seam. Xavier Smith went for the interception, but Clark snatched the ball away from Smith and spun away for additional yardage before Cortland Browning ran him out of bounds. Anthony Gatti and Connor McGovern opened it up for Berkstresser over the left side, and the red-shirt freshman QB picked up a first down. Greg White took a pitch and tried to make it around the left side. He was run out of bounds by Darvin Ruise and others near the line of scrimmage.
Harold Brantley burst through and tackled Maty Mauk in the backfield. Mauk's pass intended for Brandon Holifield was high and incomplete. Mauk came back with another high throw that bounced off of Sean Culkin's hands. The deep safety came up with the deflected ball for the interception. Mauk found Brandon Holifield running down the right hash and the talented freshman hauled it in and took it to the house. Levi Copeland dropped Mauk's on target pass near the left sideline. Mauk got the ball to Dorial Green-Beckham in the right seam. Defenders surrounded the big freshman and ripped at the football. But, Green-Beckham's strength was evident, as he held onto the football and wriggled forward for additional yardage.
Offense and defense each had their moments during Monday's practice. There were quite a few intercepted passes. I may have lost count, but I think each QB matched his place on the Depth Chart with the number of picks he threw; Franklin threw 1, Berkstresser 2, and Mauk 3. They weren't playing favorites either, as several different defensive backs came up with the take-aways, including Gaines, White, Simon, Smith, and Gibson. The intra-squad competition is starting to heat up, and we've now seen some movement within the Depth Chart, and things are beginning to sort themselves out. One of the highlights of the day was a completion from Franklin to Marcus Lucas on a crossing route. Braylon Webb arrived with the football and delivered one of the better thumps of the young camp. But, Lucas held on for what appeared to be a first down reception.
Coach Pinkel was asked about the talent and depth of his current receiver corps? Indirectly acknowledging that he does have depth of talent at receiver, Coach Pinkel responded with a challenge to his receivers.
"My big thing with the receivers right now, is you know, separate yourself! You know, you want the ball, you want to be the guy, separate yourself," explained Coach Pinkel. "Do more! Make the great catch, make the great run. Get open in difficult situations. So, that's kind of challenge that we're putting in front of those guys, separate yourself from the other good players!"