On Thursday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced for over two hours in full pads on the Kadlec Athletic Fields. It was a physical, intense practice in preparation of Saturday’s first fall scrimmage.
For those keeping score, the offense came out on top to pull even with the defense for camp. That’s actually a little surprising, although the camp scoring is designed to kind of create a close competition between the offense and the defense. But, in my view, Missouri’s defense has been ahead of the offense during the first week of camp.
Marcus Lucas began practice wearing a red-pull-over which he shed later on. Jaleel Clark sat out while wearing a red jersey, and Matt White joined John Gibson and Wesley Leftwich on the sidelines, also wearing red jerseys. Gibson is the one who needs to be back in there, but I’d say that his availability for Saturday’s scrimmage is in question.
I didn’t see any changes to the Depth Chart other than those resulting from the injuries. Ian Simon moved up to the first team defense, and David Johnson is getting reps with the first team in the dime personnel package. He and Xavier Smith are the second-team corners in the base defense. Leftwich’s injury has opened the door for J’Mon Moore, and the silky-smooth freshman receiver has burst through it. With Clark sidelined, Darius White moved up behind L’Damian Washington.
Although there’s a lot of competition all over the field for starting jobs, and even more competition for second-string positions, there are a few starters who it appears have separated themselves from their competition. Among the current starters who have pulled away from their competition are Matt Hoch, Andrew Wilson, Donovan Bonner, and E.J. Gaines. Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, and Braylon Webb appear to have a leg up on a starting job. On the other side of the football, four of the currently listed starting offensive linemen appear to have separated themselves from the competition, as has James Franklin. I consider Henry Josey and Russell Hansbrough to effectively be co-starters, and L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham each appear to be pretty well-established at the outside receiver spots. Sean Culkin is the starting tight end. I don’t think that will change, although it’s not clear to me if the tight end will actually start the game. If the tight end doesn’t start, then Marcus Lucas is probably going to have a starting job at the Y WR spot.
Among the true freshmen who appear to me to be challenging for playing time this season are Josh Augusta and J’Mon Moore. Earlier this week, Augusta had been pretty dominant in going up against 3rd and 4th team offensive linemen. That’s earned him the opportunity to go against 1st and 2nd team offensive linemen. And, he’s been winning his share of those battles, at times, in dominating fashion. He’s learning on the fly, but I think that Augusta will quickly move up on the Depth Chart, and I’d be surprised if he isn’t playing a lot by mid-season.
Moore is another mega-talent who will be hard to keep off the field. He’s got a lot to learn, and his playing time will likely be limited only by his ability to learn his assignments. But if Coach Washington decides to play as many as eight wide-receivers, Moore will probably be among them.
The next couple of weeks are going to reveal a lot about the competition for the back-up QB job. Right now, it appears to be Maty Mauk, who has improved rather dramatically since this spring. I think his primary challenge may ultimately come from Trent Hosick, who just continues to improve at a rapid rate. In my opinion, Hosick was the most improved QB during the spring, from the beginning of the spring until the end of the spring. And he’s continued to improve. He’s gotten noticeably better just this week, particularly with his arm strength, and his passing accuracy.
Coach Jones had some good things to say about red-shirt freshman TB Morgan Steward.
“He’s getting better every day,” said Coach Jones, talking about Morgan Steward. “He’s got a really bright future.”
During the next couple of weeks, maybe I'll get to see how the Tigers are going to fill the role of short-yardage back. Steward and Greg White are candidates for that job. It’s unclear to me at this time from a personnel standpoint just how the Missouri staff is going to approach short yardage situations.
Coach Henson talked about how the offensive line is coming along.
“I think we’re getting better every day,” said Coach Henson. “Right now, what we’re dealing with is we’re just dealing with a little bit too much inconsistency………………………………………………… It’s not execution of the scheme. It’s execution of fundamentals. So, when you’re having little lapses in the ones and twos with execution of fundamentals, that’s not what we need. So, we’ve got to improve over this next week.”
Regarding the offense as a whole, Coach Henson said, “I feel good about where we’re at right now. I think we’re executing better and better and better every day. It’s like, we get a little better every day, so if we just keep doing that, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be where we need to be.”
Everyone is excited about and looking forward to Saturday's first scrimmage.