On Monday, the Missouri Tigers took to Faurot Field in helmets and shorts for more than two hours. Enthusiasm ran high for the first practice of Fall Camp.
Following practice, Coach Pinkel talked about getting started.
“Overall, I thought it was good work,” said Coach Pinkel. “By NCAA rule, we have no pads on for two days, then we have shoulder pads on for two days, then full pads, so we got in a lot of fundamental work, tons of fundamental work. We have to watch the competitive drills that we have because we don’t have the proper pads on. But other than that, I thought we got in some good work, and we’ll get going again tomorrow morning and get better as a football team.” Earlier on Monday, the Tigers elected four fifth-year senior starters as their 2014 team captains, including Mitch Morse, Bud Sasser, Markus Golden, and Braylon Webb.
“It was good selections,” said Coach Pinkel. “We did that this morning. I just think all four kids are really great kids, great leaders.”
Coach Pinkel identified three players who are coming back from injury, including Braylon Webb, Connor McGovern, and Kentrell Brothers. They each participated on a limited basis, but according to Coach Pinkel, they’ll each be ready for full contact before long.
In addition, Coach Pinkel identified two freshmen players who have yet to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, including Tavon Ross and Walter Brady. He expressed the hope that each of them will soon be cleared to practice.
The theme on Monday, which will be repeated throughout camp, but which is being emphasized even more this week, is the careful attention to and the repetition of the individual fundamentals of each position. The goal for each individual player is the mastery of the fundamental techniques of his position, including the training of the eyes to see and read, and to automatically react with the appropriate technique, therefore unleashing his considerable talent to make plays on the field while minimizing reaction time and mistakes.
One of the things that stood out to me on Monday is that this Missouri team is very, very talented, but also young. The youth is not as prevalent among the starters however, as there are 8 fourth or fifth year players among the 11 starters on offense, and 8 more fourth or fifth year players among the 11 starters on defense. Where the youth and the abundance of talent are evident is in looking at the backups. And, it’s at the level of the second and third team offense and defense where there’s likely going to be the most closely contested competition for playing time this season. I’m not saying all of the starting jobs are set. But most of them are. But, there’s quality competition all over the field for inclusion on the 2-deep, and playing time.
Coach Pinkel confirmed that sophomore Harold Brantley has been elevated to the number two defense. He explained that true freshman Michael Fairchild is currently working at number two left tackle because of McGovern being limited. He said “not to read too much into that”, explaining that the staff switched Taylor Chappell to the right side to take the first team reps that McGovern is being held out of.
Coach Pinkel also said that Marcus Murphy spent the entire day working as a slot receiver. He said that in addition to utilizing Murphy in the TB rotation, they intend to also play him in the slot.
“We’d rather have him on the field,” explained Coach Pinkel.
“He’s a legit receiver,” said senior wide receiver Darius White, speaking of Murphy.
“I just want to help the team any way I can,” said Murphy.
Coach Pinkel talked about some of what goes into the decision to play a true freshman, or utilize a red-shirt.
“Right now, for all the freshmen at all of the positions, that's really what I’m doing right now is I’m walking around and watching them practice all the time,” explained Coach Pinkel, talking about evaluating first-year players. “Our position coaches are, too. I told the freshmen yesterday, it’s important for you to know how we evaluate you. We’re looking to see if you can help us this year. Sometimes the guy physically is not ready to play, emotionally not ready to play, mentally is not ready to play. He might not be strong enough, fast enough, quick enough. He might end up being a first team all-SEC player in three years, but right now, he’s not ready to play. But we’re looking for those guys that are going to be able to help us this year, not only at receiver, but everywhere else. But with our receiver turnover, we’re obviously looking at that position a little more.”
Coach Pinkel emphasized that he and his team are “focused on getting better as a football team”.
“It’s working hard every day,” explained Coach Pinkel, identifying his formula for putting a good team on the field. “It’s guys getting better. It’s guys making plays. It’s guys being accountable to one another, and playing together as a team. There’s so many variables to being a great football team. And that’s what we’re doing. We’ve been working on it since January, and we’re working on it now. And hopefully, we’ll keep getting better and better. And I think that’s going to be important for us. And hopefully, we’ll all stay healthy, too.”