On Friday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced on Faurot Field in shells for almost two hours. Several players were held out of what was a light practice that featured special teams work and some special situational work. The focus on Friday was clearly in preparation for Saturday's scrimmage.
"It was good work today," said Coach Pinkel. "We back off a little bit, traditionally, on this day because we have a big scrimmage tomorrow, and we want to get everybody that we can in the scrimmage. It was good practice in shoulder pads with a lot of specialty things, two-minute offense, save time, waste time, a lot of kicking areas, different things that are kind of unusual that happen. So this time of year, we want to make sure that we cover all of those things in preparation. But a big scrimmage tomorrow. We'll probably have quite a few guys that probably will not scrimmage. But, we'll find out about that a little later."
Coach Pinkel said that Travis Ruth had successful surgery to repair his torn triceps tendon on Thursday, and that Sean Culkin was scheduled to have a pin inserted in his fractured ring finger today. He said that Culkin is expected to return in 3-4 weeks.
Several players wore red jerseys, and watched from the sidelines, including Henry Josey, Greg White, Kip Edwards, Taylor Chappell, Sean Culkin, Eric Waters, Chris Freeman, and Matt Hoch. I'm not sure which of these players will scrimmage on Saturday. Maybe Hoch?
During 7-on-7s, James Franklin got the football to Gahn McGaffie out in the left seam for first down yardage. Franklin found Kendial Lawrence out along the right sideline for about 7 yards. E.J. Gaines jumped in front of Marcus Lucas and broke up Franklin's pass. Franklin found Bud Sasser in the left seam to move the chains. Franklin hit Marcus Murphy out along the right sideline for near first down yardage. Franklin hit Jaleel Clark in the hands, but Clark failed to hold on. Franklin hit Jimmie Hunt on a sideline out pattern for a first down. Franklin showed his arm strength with a quality throw from the right hash clear across the field to the left sideline, where Kendial Lawrence made the reception and then took it up the sideline for a sizable gain. Franklin found Sasser near the right hash for about 6 yards. Franklin came right back to Sasser in the right seam, but E.J. Gaines was there to knock the ball out of Sasser's grasp. Franklin came back to Lawrence on the left sideline, clear across the field, to move the chains. Franklin found Rolandis Woodland out along the right sideline. Gaines was there to make the play, but Woodland came away with the first down reception.
Rolandis Woodland made the first of what would end up being several quality receptions on Friday morning, as he came back and went up over Xavier Smith to snag an underthrown pass from Corbin Berkstresser. Not only did Woodland break up what appeared to be a sure interception, but he came down with the football, as well.
Maty Mauk completed a pass to Wesley Leftwich out near the left hash for a nice gain. Mauk hit Dorial Green-Beckham over the middle just short of the first down marker. Mauk found Green-Beckham over the middle for a first down. He was bracketed by Kentrell Brothers and Jared Parham.
During 1-on-1 pass rush drills, Sheldon Richardson bull-rushed his way past Max Copeland. Evan Boehm stonewalled Marvin Foster. Kony Ealy won a closely contested battle over Anthony Gatti. Mitch Morse stonewalled Jimmy Burge. Ealy beat Gatti off the edge. Shane Ray blew past Mike Boddie.
During 11-on-11s, Franklin faked the ball to Kendial Lawrence and ran over the left side for a big gain. Gatti and Boehm opened up a big lane. Franklin's pass intended for Sasser was incomplete. Marcus Lucas dropped a perfect throw from Franklin that would have netted at least 25 yards. Lucas is not having a good day. Later, Lucas dropped another one. Franklin dropped it off to McGriff-Culver out in the right flat foe a nice gain. Later, Xavier Smith intercepted a pass from Franklin that was intended for Jimmie Hunt.
Berkstresser found Brandon Holifield in the right seam. The throw was behind him, and Holifield reached back and tapped the ball to himself with one hand for the first down reception. Jared McGriff-Culver ran inside for a couple of yards. Berkstresser found Tyler Hunt in the right seam. Hunt made a real nice grab of a contested ball on that one, then tacked on a nice run after catch for a first down. Berkstresser found Dorial Green-Beckham about 25 yards down the left seam. The ball was thrown behind Green-Beckham, but DGB reached back and went up over Cortland Browning to pull it in for the reception. Green-Beckham routinely displays remarkable athleticism and body control in routinely making difficult catches.
Morgan Steward took a hand-off from Maty Mauk and ran right for a nice gain. Steward appears to have settled in and is beginning to regularly display his considerable ability. Derrion Thomas came across and stopped Miles Drummond in the backfield. Steward made a nice catch out in the flat and turned it up for a first down. Mauk scrambled right, then threw the ball up for grabs over near the right sideline, where it was intercepted.
Following practice, Coach Pinkel was asked which of the freshmen have stood out to him?
"Well, Sean Culkin was the one that really, obviously did," replied Coach Pinkel. "Honestly, there's a lot of good athletes in that class. We're going to have to see how that goes. Levi (Copeland) has done a really good job at receiver. Dorial (Green-Beckham) obviously really good, and certainly, he's done a good job. Evan Boehm's done a really good job. (Harold) Brantley is a defensive tackle. There's a lot of guys that are out there. There's some defensive backs, too, and some linebackers. The linebacker corps, (Donavin) Newsom and (Michael) Scherer are really good, young players. I can go on and on. There's a lot of good athletes in this class."
"Our big thing is to just kind of see where they're at, and what approach they're going to be at," continued Coach Pinkel. "When we discuss red-shirting, it's an ongoing discussion with them. They're a part of it. Most all of those guys could play on special teams, but we also want to use their year wisely. So, that's what we kind of have to work with and deal with."
Coach Pinkel suggested that Culkin has already done enough to warrant serious consideration for playing time this year.
"We go through evaluation of personnel every day," explained Coach Pinkel. "You know, Kenji Jackson is a graduate assistant for us now, and he sits in our staff meetings. And, I've always told him, just as I'll tell our team tonight, always talking about our grading system we're going to have tomorrow. And, I always tell the team that after every practice, we talk about every single player on our board. That's 105 players right now, and every single player. And so he came up to me the other day, and he said, "Coach, you guys really do that!" He said, "The players don't believe it, that you talk about every player every day." But we do. This evaluation is not going to be just this scrimmage. This evaluation will be every practice that we've had thus far. And so it's a combination of everything. But, there's a little bit more importance on this (scrimmage), because it's more of a game type situation. But we've been evaluating guys all along. But, (the scrimmage) is certainly important to us. You know, we're banged up in the offensive line, which is really going to cause some issues. It kind of filters through the whole offense. But, we'll work through it."