On Wednesday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced in full pads for just under two hours on the Kadlec Athletic Fields. Coach Pinkel said that they're pointing toward Thursday's scrimmage, and in keeping with that theme, instead of practicing on Wednesday afternoon the team will be going to the movies.
"Typically as we had organized, when we have a big scrimmage, which we're going to have tomorrow, we back off a little bit," explained Coach Pinkel, talking about Wednesday's practice, and looking forward to Thursday's scrimmage. "So, we got done and got off the field probably about thirty minutes earlier. We got a lot of work done. I thought it was really good from that standpoint, though. It's going to be an important scrimmage tomorrow, as they all are. But certainly the days are ticking down to The Opening game. I thought overall, it was pretty good work."
There was quite a bit of work on situations, including coming out of their own end, red zone work, and work on the various special teams. Coach Pinkel shared some of his thoughts about special teams.
"There's a lot of competition between Andrew (Baggett) and Trey (Barrow)," said Coach Pinkel, referring to the top two place kickers. "And that's good! We'll see where that goes. I'm pleased right now with our punting. I just think we're punting the ball as good as we've punted in a long time. So that's good! And we're trying to shore up our punt returners and our kick returners. We call them the kick specialists, and the snappers and all of those guys. That's ongoing, but we're slowly narrowing it down. "
There were quite a few players wearing red jerseys, including Taylor Chappell, Henry Josey, Sean Culkin, Jimmie Hunt, Rolandis Woodland, Lucas Vincent, and Evan Winston. It seems unlikely that any of those players will scrimmage on Thursday. Justin Britt wore a red pull-over, and he won't scrimmage on Thursday, but Coach Pinkel said that Britt is getting close to a return. T.J. Moe, L'Damian Washington, Greg White, Matt Hoch, Kip Edwards, and Will Ebner each wore red pull-overs and sat out the heavier contact drills.
Dorial Green-Beckham lined up behind Eric Waters at the slot position, and he was getting some reps with the first-team offense. For the third straight day, Green-Beckham appeared to be more acclimated and played at a higher pace than he had shown last week. Hopefully, he'll be able to carry that over into Thursday's scrimmage.
Many of the same players stood out during Wednesday's practice that I've reported on previously. Players like James Franklin, Gahn McGaffie, Marcus Lucas, and Bud Sasser on offense, and guys like Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy, E.J. Gaines, Braylon Webb, and Kenronte Walker on defense, all just continue to play at a very high level on a daily basis.
I thought that Ian Simon looked very good on Wednesday. And, Kentrell Brothers was in on a lot of plays. It's apparent that the staff really likes Brothers, and we're going to be seeing a lot of him this year, at least on special teams. Markus Golden was getting in on some action. He's getting in on a lot of special teams action, and took some reps on Wednesday at weak-side linebacker with the second team defense. Just looking at him, Golden appears to me to be the biggest of Missouri's LBs. With Ebner sidelined, Michael Scherer was getting second team reps, as well. The Tigers appear to be stacked at LB!
Harold Brantley worked extensively with the second team defense, and he joined Brothers as a shield blocker on the punt coverage team. Brantley is very smart, and Coach Kuligoski told me that Brantley has all of his assignments correct every day. Brantley runs very well, and is very athletic. Coach Kul wouldn't commit to playing time for Brantley this season, but all signs point to Brantley being on the field for Missouri in 2012.
With Britt sidelined, Evan Boehm continued to take all of the first team reps at left guard. He's lining up across from Ealy and Richardson, which isn't fair, but the freshman is hanging in there, and he's getting play-to-play tutoring from Elvis Fisher. Of course, the results are better when they're going against the number two defense. Brantley's usually on the other side giving Max Copeland fits.
Here's some of Wednesday's action.
During 1-on-1 pass rush drills, Sheldon Richardson powered his way right past Max Copeland. Jimmy Burge picked up a win over Mitch Morse. Kony Ealy ran right past Elvis Fisher. Marvin Foster ripped his way past Evan Boehm. Brad Madison beat Fisher off the ball, but Fisher kept his poise and retreated to a position oif advantage and then took Madison on past the QB for the win. Fisher's experience showed there. He didn't panic. Kony Ealy juked his way past Boehm. Jack Meiners stonewalled Shane Ray.
During the 9-on-9 run drill, Kendial Lawrence started right. Michael Sam threw him down after just a short gain. Marcus Murphy ran inside left tackle for a nice gain. Jack Meiners pulled from the right side and led the way up into the hole. Jared McGriff-Culver ran right into Ealy after a short gain. David Butler stopped Russell Hansbrough for a loss. Kendial Lawrence ran left but never could get the edge. Kenronte Walker and Andrew Wilson ran him out of bounds.
During 11-on-11 action, James Franklin gave it to Lawrence, who was met at the line of scrimmage by Burge and Ealy. Franklin scrambled right and got the ball to McGaffie in the right seam for a first down. Ealy came across and threw Murphy for a loss. Murphy ran it up inside for a couple of yards. Franklin found McGaffie along the right sideline for a first down. McGaffie was closely covered, but Franklin's pass was right on target. Franklin found McGaffie near the right hash for a first down. Franklin found McGaffie in the right seam for about 5 yards. Brothers was there to make the stop. Franklin's pass attempt intended for Eric Waters in the middle of the end zone was broken up by Matt White. Lawrence started left and ran into Elvis Fisher before he was taken down in the backfield.
Kerwin Stricker took a hand-off running left, but Webb and Richardson came across to throw him for a loss. Hansbrough picked up a yard straight ahead before Richardson brought him down.
Maty Mauk had Jaleel Clark in the right back corner of the end zone, but his pass was overthrown. Mauk had Darius White on the fade, but his pass was long. John Gibson had the coverage, but there was room in the back right corner if the pass had been on target. Hansbrough ran right toward the sideline and cut inside of Jaleel Clark's block to get it in the end zone. Mauk's pass intended for Stricker out along the left sideline was incomplete. Mauk scrambled left and made it into the end zone. Mauk is quite impressive as a runner, as he has good speed and vision, and he seems to make a lot of people miss in the open field. At this juncture, he's much better as a runner than as a passer. Mauk's pass intended for Dorial Green-Beckham in the left side of the end zone was intercepted by Chaston Ward. Green Beckham had gotten behind the defense, but Mauk's throw was short and Ward wrestled the ball away from Green-Beckham, who was coming back and reaching back for the underthrown ball. Markus Golden and Rickey Hatley met Morgan Steward in the back field, and took Steward down for a loss.
After practice, I asked Coach Pinkel if he's pleased with how his team is coming together?
"I don't really do that," Coach Pinkel replied. "Every day we just work hard. We try to have the best day that we can, and get better as a football team every day."