The Missouri Tigers returned to the grass practice fields early Friday morning for the second of their mandatory practices in helmets and shorts. A light rain fell throughout practice. Things started off slowly barely twelve hours after having completed their first practice Thursday evening, but after everyone got warmed up, the coaching staff cranked things up.
Coach Steckel and Coach Kuligowski teamed up to get the defense moving during one of Coach Steckel's favorite drills. Each position unit runs into position on the field, performs a few up-downs, and then on Coach Steckel's signal, they race toward the sideline in pursuit of tackling dummies. Coach Steckel and Coach Kuligowski each exhorted their players to run through the bags, and early in the drill, several units had to repeat the drill for failure to pursue fast enough or to finish satisfactorily.
“Charles, run through the bag,” Coach Kul was heard to say, exhorting freshman Charles Harris to finish the drill.
By the way, Harris can really run!
The offense got to speed things up fairly quickly, as well, with Coach Hill and Coach Henson barking out instructions to increase the tempo. Increased tempo appears to be in Coach Henson’s plans for the Missouri offense.
“I think we can play faster,” said Coach Henson. “We’re trying to emphasize playing faster……………………………………. I thought (the tempo) was better today than it was yesterday.”
Asked how fast he wants the Tigers to play offense, Coach Henson replied, “I want to be fast enough for it to be an advantage for us to help us win games.”
There were no significant changes noted in the Depth Chart. I'll update changes as they are observed. Freshman right tackle Harneet Gill wore a red jersey on Friday and sat out drills, although he did do some of the stretching. He’s still recovering from the foot injury he suffered last fall. Freshman defensive tackle A.J. Logan wore a red jersey again, but he wore cleats and was seen doing some of the stretching with his teammates. Freshman corner Anthony Sherrils participated fully without the red pull-over he had worn on Thursday.
Speaking of Sherrils, he's just an exceptional prospect! He can really run!
Again on Friday, the emphasis was on the basics, and execution of fundamental technique.
“I think the guys are really working hard to improve at the little things,” said Coach Henson. “When you add together a bunch of little improvements, before you know it, you’ve become a lot better.”
During drills, starting QB James Franklin displayed his superior accuracy, hooking up with several different receivers, hitting each of them right in the hands, right in stride, and right on time.
All four of the QBs behind Franklin continue to display their talent and passing ability. At various times, except for which unit they're practicing with, it's not readily apparent which of the back-ups is Missouri's second-best QB. It is clear that at present Maty Mauk is the number two, but I can't say that he's separated himself from the other three scholarship QBs, at least not the way that Franklin has obviously separated himself from the pack.
Another offensive position where the starter has separated himself from the others is at tight end, where Sean Culkin displays vastly superior receiver skills on a daily basis. It's early in camp, but from what I'm seeing, I think that Culkin looks to be as good a receiver as any of Missouri's recent run of outstanding tight ends. He has good size, he runs well, and he has good body control. He catches the football very well away from his body, and he shows good strength in possessing the football and after the catch.
It's a joy to watch Henry Josey and Russell Hansbrough tote the rock. They are both extremely quick, and they change direction and accelerate as well as anyone. As good as Josey looks, I'm not sure that Hansbrough isn't better.
During punt practice, Mitch Hall and Michael Brennan handled the long-snapping while Christian Brinser and Preston Roper sent the ball skyward. Among those who worked as punt returners was Marcus Murphy, E.J. Gaines, John Gibson, Ian Simon, and Aarion Penton.
I’m continually impressed by Missouri’s 2013 freshmen class. The Tigers scored very well in signing two outstanding QB prospects, as well as two very talented corner prospects. The Tigers appear to have done very well all around with this freshmen class, including some quality linebacker prospects, and quality prospects at a number of positions. But there’s perhaps nowhere on the field that the freshmen are as noticeable early in camp as at the defensive tackle position. Josh Augusta appears to be as advertised! He’s extremely athletic, and possesses outstanding ball skills, as well as flexibility, mobility, and outright speed. He's inordinately strong, as well. In one-on-ones, he’s yet to be blocked. Nate Crawford is another great-looking athlete with good size who can really run. And, DeQuinton Osborne is extremely quick and mobile for such a wide body. One offensive lineman remarked that trying to block him is “like trying to block a bowling ball”. I don’t think he’s been blocked either.
Acquiring quality quarterbacks, cornerbacks, and defensive tackles is not only very difficult to do, but it is a great start toward building a quality football team.