On Wednesday, the Missouri Tigers took to the grass practice fields in helmets and shoulder pads for their final workout in preparation of Thursday’s final scrimmage of the 2013 pre-season. It was another warm day as the temperatures hovered near 90 degrees. Enthusiasm ran high, as players completed their drills, and moved from practice period to practice period.
Thursday’s scrimmage will begin with the starters engaged in game-like conditions for one-quarter. The remainder of the scrimmage will revert to the typical scrimmage format, and second and third-team players will see most of the remaining action.
There are several position battles ongoing, mostly for second-team spots and those final spots on the two-deep depth chart.
On Wednesday, E.J. Gaines and Greg White continued to do limited work while wearing red pull-overs, and Matt Hoch joined Wesley Leftwich and Michael Brennan on the sidelines in red jerseys. Trent Hosick exited a drill early in practice and limped to the trainer’s table with what appeared to be an ankle or lower leg injury. I don’t expect Gaines to scrimmage on Thursday, and there’d be no reason to rush Hoch back into action. Their starting jobs are as secure as can be, and the emphasis for those two players is on getting them healthy for the season opener.
There was an air of expectation surrounding Wednesday’s practice, as everyone points toward Thursday’s decisive test.
In addition, the practice field has become more crowded, as nearly 20 additional walk-ons have joined the team this week. Some were here in the spring. And, there’s also some new guys.
As players and staff broke into their position groups, there was a lot of teaching going on, with the emphasis as usual on fundamental technique and assignment mastery. Players were drilled over and over again, as they have been throughout camp, on recognition of assignments and things like footwork, hand placement, ball security, and a host of other details that all add up to playing winning football.
The coaches are always exhorting players to “finish!” each rep, and reps are repeated when it’s deemed that the player did not finish acceptably. It is this kind of attention to detail in practice, and the drive to practice perfectly day in and day out that molds a talented prospect into a disciplined, consistent, high-level player.
So, the first quarter on Thursday will be about the respective starting units developing continuity, and the rest of the scrimmage will be about everyone else getting better, and competing for their positions on the two-deep depth chart.
Following Thursday's scrimmage, the coaching staff will have numerous decisions to make, specifically regarding the two-deep, and which players will be red-shirted. Then, everyone's attention turns to game week preparation for the season-opener. Game preparation for Murray State will be like game preparation following a bye week, as the Tigers will be able to get a head start on preparing for their season-opening opponent, and double up on their typical Tuesday and Wednesday practices.