On Tuesday afternoon, the Missouri Tigers resumed spring practice indoors in full pads. Enthusiasm continued to run high.
I didn't see any changes in the Depth Chart. As for injuries, Eric Laurent and Jordan Williams wore red jerseys and sat out all drills. Justin Britt and Taylor Chappell continued to wear red pull-overs, and went through non-contact drills.
Coach Kuligowski put his defensive linemen through their drills at a quick pace. I like the look of this unit. As I've previously written, Missouri appears to be strong at defensive end. Shane Ray has improved himself from a physical standpoint to where he has the look of starter-quality guy. Brayden Burnett is holding down the other second-string spot for now, but it appears to me that Markus Golden and Rickey Hatley will each challenge the two-deep this year. We've all seen what a physical specimen Golden is, and he appears to be leaner and quicker this spring. Hatley may be even more physically imposing. He runs really well, and he displays tremendous athleticism for his length and size. He's not far behind Ealy in terms of his size, yet he appears to move like a smaller person. Early on, Hatley is making a very positive impression.
In addition to liking what I see from Missouri's defensive linemen, linebacker is another position that looks good for the Tigers. There's quite a bit of competition going on here, as Andrew Wilson is the only current starter who I'd say has his starting job in hand. Some of the young guys are going to be heard from this year.
For the second straight practice, the defense won the day.
Once again, Christian Brinser banged punts off of the roof. Jake Hurrell is the number one long-snapper, and the first-team wedge blockers are Kony Ealy, Matt Hoch, and Brayden Burnett. Sean Culkin also did some long-snapping on punts, and Blake Owens and Wesley Leftwich also worked on punting. Marcus Murphy and Levi Copelin were among those who were fielding punts.
Coach Henson stopped by briefly after practice. He confirmed that they’re shuffling the offensive linemen around. He mentioned that they’re taking a long look at Evan Boehm at center, and that Mitch Morse and Brad McNulty are both working at guard. He acknowledged that Anthony Gatti is playing the best that he has since he arrived at Missouri. I’ll have more from Coach Henson later.
As concerns the QB competition, James Franklin continues to separate himself from the rest of Missouri's QBs with the timing and accuracy of his passes. Corbin Berkstresser was having a good day, as he appeared to be a little more on time with his passes. But, like Maty Mauk and the rest of Missouri's QBs, Berkstresser just isn't nearly as consistently accurate as is Franklin. In fact, I'd say that Berkstresser, Mauk, and the two freshmen, Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz, are all pretty much together in a group in terms of the comparative timing and accuracy of their passes.
Once again, the top three QBs rotated in one group, while the other QBs worked in a second group. There were drills where Hosick and Printz joined the other three QBs, and all of the QBs rotated through as a single group. Just in case anyone has any questions about Hosick's passing ability, with the exception of Franklin, who is clearly separating himself from the other QBs, Hosick throws the football about as well as the rest of Missouri's QBs.
Each QB has his own individual strengths and weaknesses, and where one might have more velocity on the football, another one has better touch, is more accurate, etc. All five scholarship QBs appear to me to possess at least adequate arm strength.
Franklin hit Marcus Lucas on a deep slant right on time and right on the money.
Berkstresser completed an out route, but the receiver had to reach down below his knees to make the catch.
A little later, Franklin faked a hand-off to Greg White, who continued out into the flat. Franklin looked down field, then hit White right on the money out near the left sideline, while leading him up the field. It was smooth, and the timing was just right.
Each of the top three QBs ran the same play. Berkstresser's pass to Henry Josey was just a little off time. Josey made the catch, but his momentum was interrupted. Berkstresser’s pass to Tyler Hunt was better timed and on target. Mauk fired one at the TB, who had to stop to make the catch, before continuing up field. I use this as an example of what I'm seeing again and again. In terms of the accuracy and the timing of his passes, Franklin is just remarkably, consistently, superior to Missouri's other QBs. If he continues to throw with this kind of consistent accuracy, I don't think there's much doubt that Franklin will retain his starting status.
Now, the real question may become who will be the back-up, and heir apparent, behind Franklin. At this juncture, I need to see a lot more of all four of Missouri's young scholarship QBs, as in my view, they are currently tightly bunched together in the competition.