Spring Football 2013 got underway for Missouri on Tuesday afternoon as the Tigers took to Devine Pavilion in helmets and shorts for the first of their fifteen spring workouts. Everyone appeared to be enthusiastic on this first day of spring ball.
“Overall, practice went well,” explained Coach Pinkel, following his team’s first practice of the spring. “There was a high level of energy. It was exciting to get back out here. It’s been awhile. I thought the team worked well……………………………………. Overall, I think it was a good day,”
Everyone listed on the Pre-Spring Depth Chart appeared to be in attendance, although senior safety Matt White had a class conflict and he arrived late. There were two players, defensive tackles Matt Hoch and Harold Brantley, who wore red pullovers, indicating that they were to be held out of contact drills, although in helmets and shorts, the contact is limited for everyone, so Brantley and Hoch were able to participate in most of the drills.
I was able to get a pretty good look at the defensive linemen, as Coach Kuligowski put them through a number of drills, including bag work, and other drills aimed at developing fundamental technique. This is where Coach Kuligowski does a lot of teaching, as he will provide feedback to his players after almost each repetition.
As I recently wrote in the preview, Missouri is pretty well-established with quality defensive ends. One DE who drew my attention today was RSF Rickey Hatley, who looks really good physically, and who showed off his ability to run. I'd say that Hatley is a developing player, but he does have the tools, with his combination of size and speed.
Another defensive lineman who impressed with his speed is Brantley, who appears to be the fastest of Missouri's interior defensive linemen. I also thought that Matt Hoch looked good in drills. He showed good quickness, and appears to be carrying his 295-pound listed weight more easily than he did last fall.
I got a good look at first-team punter Christian Brinser, who banged nearly every punt off the roof . Over the years, as I've watched Missouri's punters, I have learned that we want them to hit the roof. With Brinser, I think he's hitting the roof more consistently, and with more force, than what I've seen with previous punters. Missouri's had very good punters in recent years, and I think that Brinser will carry on that tradition.
Coach Alex Grinch had a stop watch on his punters, keeping track of their get-off times. Blake Owens followed Brinser, and his punts were not as consistent as Brinser’s. Others who practiced punting were Wesley Leftwich and Nick Coffman. Among the long-snappers who were working with the punters was Jake Hurrell, Mitch Hall, and Sean Culkin. Coach Josh Henson had a stop watch on his long-snappers.
Before Matt White arrived, Ian Simon joined Braylon Webb on the first-team defense, and Ernest Payton joined Cortland Browning as the second-team safeties. Those four are a pretty good-looking bunch of athletes.
Another defensive back who quickly caught my eye was corner back John Gibson. He appears to have the entire package. Now, he just needs to apply it on the field on a consistent basis.
On the other side of the football, Taylor Chappell was lining up at right tackle with the second-team offense, and big Chris Freeman was working behind Chappell, with the third team. Justin Britt and Anthony Gatti took the reps at left tackle with the first and second units respectively. All of those offensive tackles appeared to be moving unencumbered by their previous injuries, although as previously stated, contact was limited.
The only other deviation that I saw from the Pre-Spring Depth Chart was that Morgan Steward did line up ahead of Tyler Hunt at the TB position.
Later in the drills, Franklin lined up with the third team offense, and found Levi Copelin with a quick hitter near the right hash.
In an individual passing drill, five QBs throw simultaneously to five different receivers. QBs rotate through each of the five stations so they each get five reps before they rotate out. As with virtually every passing drill, James Franklin hit his receivers in stride and on time. The other QBs make accurate throws, but they also have throws that are not as accurate. Jimmie Hunt and Dorial Green-Beckham each made nice receptions that required them to adjust to the ball in the air and reach for a slightly errant throw.
The top three QBs took the vast majority of the reps. The two true freshmen and the walk-ons took very few reps, as they quickly rotated in and out. It was just one day in shorts, but from what I saw, James Franklin's passes were consistently on time and on target, more so than the others. Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk each made a number of nice throws, but their timing with the receivers, and the accuracy of their passes, lagged behind Franklin's on day one of this QB competition.
Coach Pinkel talked about opening up the competition at QB after a season in which injuries affected Franklin’s performance.
“I’ve never had a player hurt like that before,” said Coach Pinkel, talking about how James Franklin’s injuries last season have resulted in opening the QB position back up to competition this spring. “He’s not established as a result of his injuries. A lot of that was not his fault. But still, he didn’t play at the level that we expect, or that we need.”
“What we’ll do is rotate all three of those guys,” said Coach Pinkel, referring to Franklin, Berkstresser, and Mauk. “It’s an unusual situation. But you know what? (Franklin’s) a competitor…………………………………… It’s going to be very competitive. And that’s all good. That’ll bring out the best in everybody.”
“I don’t go in with preconceived ideas and opinions,” explained Coach Pinkel, who said that he’ll make a decision on his QB when someone separates himself from the others. “I just let the players decide it on the field. I just let them compete………………………………………….. This is going to be an on-going evaluation.”
Of Franklin, Coach Pinkel said that “because of the injuries, you can’t evaluate how he played last year. You can’t do that! All those injuries, and the games he missed, and the practices that he missed. He was coming back and practicing hurt. At Florida, he was coming off of that knee, and some balls sailed on him because he didn’t transfer his weight.”
“He’s very, very determined,” said Coach Pinkel, describing his senior QB. “I see a very, very determined guy. We know what he’s capable of doing. We’re looking for consistency…………………………………………….. I see a guy that seems very driven. They are all of them great competitors!”