On Thursday morning, the Missouri Tigers returned to Faurot Field in full pads and practiced for more than two hours. It was a competitive practice, and the competition is bringing out the best in players throughout the team.
"Overall, it was a good practice," said Coach Pinkel. "It was very competitive. It went down to the end in the competition to see who wins. So, that was good. And, we're going to get some guys back, hopefully for the scrimmage. Some we will, some we won't. We won't find out about that until tomorrow evening."
Coach Pinkel pointed out that Chris Freeman had "tweaked" his knee during practice, but that it was "not serious".
The list of injured players continues to grow, but as Coach Pinkel stated, some of the injured players are going to get back in there pretty soon. Justin Britt, Lucas Vincent, and Brad Madison each wore red pull-overs and went through some drills. T.J. Moe and Russell Hansbrough wore red pull-overs and went through some drills. E.J. Gaines was wearing a red pull-over late in practice, but he was still out there during 11-on-11s.
Travis Ruth was in street clothes. Coach Pinkel said that Ruth would likely miss most of the season. Taylor Chappell wore a red jersey. He's out for at least four months. Chappell had really shown a lot of improvement prior to his injury.
"Our players really like the (competitive nature) of our practices," explained Coach Pinkel. "The way that our practices are designed, we have winners and losers in every drill. Every drill, you're not just going through the drill. You're going through the drill to win the drill……………………………………… You're not just going through practice. You're out there competing every drill, and every drill is important. And I think you get more out of it then. And I think practices, from an efficiency standpoint, and getting quality work done, (it) correlates."
Coach Pinkel was asked about the injuries along the offensive line?
"We're okay," replied Coach Pinkel. "So, I think we're going to have to work on some depth things. So, we're going to ask I think, as a freshman you know, Evan Boehm, is a really good young prospect. He's going to be thrown in the fires here. And, I think that's good that we have a player of that quality that physically, that he's ready to play."
Coach Pinkel explained that at this time in camp that the staff and the veteran players are spending a lot of time with the young guys in meetings and away from the practice field in an attempt to get the newcomers mentally ready to play.
"They're physically ready to play," explained Coach Pinkel, referring to getting some of the young guys ready to contribute this year. "It's just knowing the plays, knowing the defenses, so that you can go out and react, and not think. And so, you can really make up a lot with more meeting time with those forced players."
For the benefit of the defense, the QB came out under center and ran some power offense. Tyler Hunt took a pitch and ran left. Zaviar Gooden forced him back inside, and Kony Ealy cleaned it up. James Franklin faked a hand-off and dropped back to throw. Randy Ponder was over the top, running down the left sideline about a step ahead of L'Damian Washington. Franklin purposefully threw the ball short, a back shoulder throw, and Washington stopped to make a 35-yard reception. I've seen them working on that, and it worked to perfection that time.
Next up was a 3-on-3 passing drill, featuring work on combination routes. James Franklin hit Jimmie Hunt underneath for about 7-8 yards. Franklin hit Rolandis Woodland on an out route along the left sideline, in front of Xavier Smith
Corbin Berkstresser hooked up with Marcus Lucas out along the right sideline. Berkstresser missed connection with Moe in the left seam. Berkstresser found Washington near the left sideline. Berkstresser had Woodland deep down the right sideline, but John Gibson recovered in time to knock the ball away.
On another portion of the field, TBs and LBs squared off in a 1-on-1 pass rush drill. This was designed to simulate picking up a blitz. Will Ebner ran past Marcus Murphy. Donovan Bonner used a swim move to get right past Tyler Hunt. Miles Drummond did a nice job of taking on Jared Parham. Ebner got past Kendial Lawrence. Bonner used a swim move to get past Murphy. Bonner appears to be pretty adept at rushing the passer.
During 9-on-9 action, which is a short yardage running drill, the defense held a 7-6 lead when it was announced that there were two plays remaining in the segment. Franklin stepped in and handed the ball off to Murphy and Lawrence on successive plays that each netted sufficient yardage for the offense to win the drill 8-7.
During 7-on-7s, Will Ebner ran down the middle with Bud Sasser and broke up a Franklin pass at the goal line. That was a tremendous play by Ebner, as he erased a sure touchdown. Ebner is vastly improved in pass coverage from a couple of years ago. He may be the best middle linebacker that the Tigers have had in recent memory. He's terrific in coverage and we all know how well he plays the run. L'Damian Washington did a nice job of coming back up the sideline for a first down reception. Franklin dropped it off to Lawrence out in the right flat. He took it up the right sideline for a nice gain. E.J. Gaines and Ian Simon were there to escort him out of bounds. Will Ebner had McGaffie covered and Franklin threw it out of bounds. Franklin looked right, where a couple of receivers were covered, then he came back to the center of the field where he found Jaleel Clark in the back of the end zone.
Berkstresser hit Rolandis Woodland right in stride down the left sideline. Woodland had gotten behind Xavier Smith for a 25 yard reception. Berkstresser hit Jimmie Hunt on a drag route for a nice gain. Berkstresser hit Jaleel Clark sitting down near the right sideline for about 8 yards.
During the 1-on-1 pass rush drill, Harold Brantley went 3-0 against Evan Boehm. Brantley possesses unique explosiveness to go along with power and speed. Brantley saw extensive action on Thursday morning with the second-team defense. Michael Sam just blew past Chris Freeman. Jack Meiners stonewalled Sheldon Richardson. Richardson ended up on the ground and Big Jack reached down to help Sheldon back to his feet. Kony Ealy ripped his way past Anthony Gatti. Sam ran right past Freeman. Meiners pushed Richardson down again, and then helped him up again. Richardson didn't say anything. He just walked over and got a drink of water.
During the kick-off coverage segment, Marcus Murphy was back as the primary returner. Jimmie Hunt and Gahn McGaffie were positioned about 10-15 yards up field. John Gibson and Morgan Steward also each took a turn at kick returner.
During 11-on-11 action, James Franklin kept it and ran over the left side for a nice gain. Boehm (LG) and McGovern (RT) were both in with the first team. Franklin hit McGaffie sitting in the middle of the field for about 20 yards. Franklin lofted that one over the LBs and in front of the safeties. Coming out of their own end, Murphy took a hand-off and picked up about 6 yards running between the tackles. Brantley, Brothers, and Ruise were all in on the tackle. Franklin found McGaffie down the left sideline for about 25 yards. Add McGaffie to the number of receivers with whom Franklin has developed a special chemistry.
Greg White took a pitch from Berkstresser and ran right. He was brought down awkwardly at the sideline and was slow getting up.
In the red zone, Mauk found Dorial Green-Beckham in the back of the end zone. DGB went up and made a fairly difficult catch look easy. Green-Beckham was working out of the slot. Mauk's throw to Green-Beckham at the goal line was behind the big receiver, but DGB turned at the hips and reached back to make the catch.
Once again, James Franklin looked good throwing the football. He's throwing the football better than ever, and is continually working hard to get better. And, he has quite an arsenal of receivers at his command. This is a deep and talented group of receivers.
Corbin Berkstresser is making improvements. He's improving his decision-making, which is most evident by a decreased number of interceptions.
Maty Mauk has gotten better since the beginning of camp. He's got good arm strength, and he's very athletic. Mauk is very good at running the football. He's very quick, elusive, and has impressive acceleration. He'll just continue to get better.
It was just one day, but I have to say that I already like the move of DGB to the inside, to the Y WR position. I heard three different coaches, including Coach Pinkel, refer to that position as the "Y". For now, no one is calling it tight end.