During fall camp, Missouri junior cornerback Edwin Gaines has been playing even better than he did a year ago when he was named First-Team All-Big 12 and ranked 4th in the NCAA with his school-record 18 passes defended.
From my own observations, Gaines appears to have taken his game to another level, as he has been shutting down almost everything that comes to his side of the field.
I asked Gaines' position coach, Cornell Ford, if Gaines has upped his game from a year ago?
"He has (upped his game)," replied Coach Ford. "He's taken his game to another level."
"He competes every play," explained Coach Ford. "He's a physical kid. He's a smart kid. And, he's extremely athletic. And, I think he understands that "I've got to take my game to another level"."
Recently, I spoke with Gaines. He talked about his approach.
"I'm just working on my fundamentals and things like that," explained Gaines. "If you work on your technique and everything, it will put you in the right place at the right time."
I asked Gaines what he thinks of this year's squad?
"I see a lot of talent out there," said Gaines. "Older guys, younger guys, we're getting better as a team really. There's always room for improvement, but I mean coming out here and looking this good this early is always a good thing."
Gaines admitted that the defense has taken advantage of the youth that has often been on the field for the offense during fall camp.
I asked him about his daily competition with Marcus Lucas?
You know, it's fun! We've been going against each other for three years," explained Gaines. "And it gets funner and funner every year! We both push each other to get better each year and each practice. You can just see the competition out there. We love competition! The competition's always fun!"
"He's an amazing young guy," said Coach Pinkel, speaking of E.J. Gaines. "He's ten pounds heavier than what he was last year when he played when he was first-team all-conference. He doesn't ever have a bad practice. We never say, "Gosh, he's not working hard enough". It never comes up. He loves playing corner. He's good at it, and I think he wants to be great. He's a combination of, I think he's stronger, he's faster, he's quicker. He's not only bigger, but he has those other things, too. And that's encouraging. I think he's a great role model, or a great visual aid, to a lot of the other players, with his no-nonsense approach to practice. One of the reasons he plays so well is because he practices so well. We like to say that you play like you practice. And, he's a great example of that."