On Friday morning, with everyone pointing toward Saturday's first scrimmage of fall camp, Missouri took to the grass practice fields for a spirited two-hour workout in helmets and shoulder pads.
A local 2015 WR prospect, Alex Ofodile 6'3” 185 Columbia (MO) Rock Bridge, was an unofficial visitor at Friday morning's practice.
“I think it was a good practice,” said Coach Pinkel. “It’s been a good week. I’m very pleased with that, thus far, and obviously it’s a big scrimmage tomorrow, a very important scrimmage………………………………………… I’m really pleased with the team thus far. I think we’re working really hard, and I think we’re getting better. It’s exciting! But yet, the days are ticking away toward our first game.”
Marcus Lucas and Jaleel Clark were each wearing a red pull-over, and they were both able to run through most of the drills. By the end of practice, Lucas had shed his red pull-over. Wesley Leftwich, Matt White, and John Gibson each wore a red jersey, and they each sat out all drills. It doesn't look like those latter three will be participating in the first scrimmage. It’s much more important to get Gibson healed up, and have him available at full speed next month than to have him in there on Saturday.
The only changes I noted in the Depth Chart were the result of the aforementioned injuries. Of note, Jaleel Clark was lining up behind Dorial Green-Beckham and in front of J'Mon Moore at the X WR spot, while Leftwich was at the back of the line at the other outside receiver position, the Z WR. That keeps Darius White in the two-deep, and sets up a direct challenge for a second-string spot between Clark and Moore. It's really a classic! You've got the dependable fifth-year senior competing with the spectacularly talented freshman for what amounts to the final spot on the two-deep. The disparity in talent dictates that Moore would eventually overtake Clark for that position, yet the relevant question is will it be in time for this season? That will depend on the rapidity with which Moore learns to execute his assignments. It also provides Clark, who is the ultimate team player, with an opportunity to mentor the youngster who is trying to take his job.
Of course, with Matt White sidelined, Ian Simon and Cortland Browning are being afforded an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency at the safety position, and to stake their claim to that starting job.
Gibson was doing some running on the side, and he looks like he could be back in there next week. Meanwhile, David Johnson and Xavier Smith are being afforded their opportunity to challenge Randy Ponder, as well as to stake a claim for the position as the third corner in Mizzou's dime personnel package.
Speaking of extra defensive backs, it will be interesting to see which of Missouri's linebackers comes off the field on passing downs.
After a disappointing spring marred by lost practice time while he tended to the needs of a sick family member, junior DE Kony Ealy is poised to have his best season at Missouri. He's wearing his game face around the clock as he works to improve on his individual skills, and mentors younger players. I'm interested in seeing what kind of an effect Ealy's increased maturity off the field is going to have on his on the field performance. A break out year from Ealy would really have a positive impact on the Missouri defense, although it would also likely result in Ealy's early departure to the NFL.
Staying along the defensive line, there's nothing but positives to report regarding this unit, and each day, there's more superlatives regarding the impression being made by the man-child, Josh Augusta. Even this early, I don’t think there’s any question that Augusta is going to play this year. The questions come in the form of how much? How soon? And, will he start?
Coach Pinkel said that Saturday’s scrimmage will be very long. The plan is for each of the top three units to get 45 snaps.
“There’s a lot of competition,” explained Coach Pinkel, talking about the importance of Saturday’s scrimmage. “Guys are fighting for jobs out there. I think that’s the first thing (about the scrimmage). But what we want to do is we want to see some continuity with our number one offense and our number one defense. Other than that, we really mix a lot of people up, and we understand that the continuity won’t be as good. But, we want to see our number one offense and our number one defense with some good continuity. And, kind of see where we’re at.”
Coach Pinkel delineated criteria to be considered when evaluating which of the true freshmen might play this year.
“Playing as a freshman has a lot to do with depth,” explained Coach Pinkel. “It has a lot to do with maturity. It has a lot to do with your ability to learn our system. So, all of those components are in there.”
Coach Pinkel also said that there are “quite a few” young players (non-freshmen) who are close to being ready to play, and who can help the team win.
“If you can play, if you prove you can play, you’re going to play,” said Coach Pinkel. “That helps our football team. It helps our depth. That helps us stay healthy, and everything.”
Once again, Coach Pinkel said that staying healthy is the key to having a successful season.
“I just want to stay healthy,” said Coach Pinkel. “If you don’t have the right people out there, your team changes…………………………………. I just want to stay healthy and keep getting better as a football team.”
When asked how good his team is going to be, Coach Pinkel cited the most important factor to consider.
“I think it always starts with the line of scrimmage,” said Coach Pinkel “You know, if you’re good up front, I mean, people look at all of the players around them who can make plays, but if you’re good up front, I think that’s where it all starts on everything. And that’s where we certainly want to stay healthy on both sides of the ball.”