On Tuesday, Spring Football 2014 got underway for the Missouri Tigers, with a two-and-a-half-hour practice on Faurot Field. The weather was absolutely spectacular, and players were enthusiastic about getting started. Afterward, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about his team’s first practice of the spring.
“I thought overall, it was a good practice,” said Coach Pinkel. “By NCAA rule, the first two practices are just in helmets. That’s good, because we spend a lot of time on fundamentals. I felt that we got a lot of good work done today. It was a high-energy practice. We’re going to crank it up again Thursday, and we’ll be in pads on Friday.”
As usual with a Coach Pinkel-run practice, everything was on schedule, as players moved from station to station getting in their reps on the various drills designed to develop fundamentals.
“You know, to be a really good fundamental football team, it’s about every repetition that you have on that practice field, that you have a conscious effort of doing things right,” explained Coach Pinkel, again emphasizing the development of fundamentals. “And that’s the only way that you become a better player………………………………………….. Ultimately, how good of a fundamental team you are will ultimately determine the team that you have.”
Coach Pinkel talked about a few minor injuries that are keeping players from full participation. He cited Rickey Hatley, who is slated to work at DT and DE this spring, but who was held out on Tuesday with a foot injury. The current starter at tight end, Sean Culkin, was held out because of a small fracture on his finger. Junior corner Ernest Payton is doing limited work while he recovers from ACL surgery. Coach Pinkel indicated that he expects all three of those players to be back in possibly as soon as after Spring Break.
Just as a general observation, as I looked around the field at the various position groups, virtually all of the players appear to have excelled in their work with Dr. Ivey during the off-season conditioning program. Numerous veteran players at every position appear to be in the best physical condition of their Missouri careers.
“You get stronger, faster, and quicker,” explained Coach Pinkel, talking about the improved athletes that Dr. Ivey delivers. “But then, you’ve got to apply that on the field. And the way that you do that is that you have to know what you’re doing. And then, getting back to (repping) fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals……………………………………… That’s the way you do it.”
“There’s only three ways to become a better football player,” explained Coach Pinkel. “You can get stronger. You can get faster. You can get quicker. You physically change your body. Another one is the knowledge of your position. And then, the other one is fundamentals. That’s the only way that you can become a better player. There’s nothing else that you can do. Those things are what we do year round, so that when we get out there and run a football play as a unit together, there’s execution. So, there’s never-ending learning, and repetition.”
Coach Pinkel said that he expects competition to “sort things out” at several of the position battles. He specifically mentioned the QB position, and the offensive line. Along the offensive line, he said that they’re going to be moving players around.
“It’ll sort itself out,” said Coach Pinkel. “By the end of Spring Football, hopefully we’ll have answered a lot of those questions.”