On Tuesday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced in helmets on the Kadlec Athletic Fields for a little over two hours. Once again, the emphasis was on individual fundamentals.
After practice, Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson talked about the first couple of days of practice.
“Practice is coming along,” said Coach Henson. “It’s the same thing you see every year. It’s the first two days. There’s things we need to get better at. But overall, I’m pleased with where we’re at right now just execution-wise. You know, we had about nine days off before we got into camp here, so I think we’re a little bit sluggish. But hopefully, we’re getting that out of our system.”
There was no change reported on the status of the two freshmen players who have yet to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, Tavon Ross and Walter Brady. It’s hoped that each of them will soon be cleared to practice.
There were no new injuries to report.
Coach Henson talked about utilizing Marcus Murphy as a slot receiver.
“Well, we just look at Murph, and we think he’s a great play maker for us,” explained Coach Henson. “And, we just want to get him as many opportunities as we can to put the ball in his hands. So, we’re just kind of taking a look at it, and see how it goes.”
Coach Henson said that Murphy is already up to speed at the position. Coach Henson said that they had considered utilizing Murphy in the slot last year, but some injuries at the tailback position curtailed his use in the slot.
“I think it’s something that when you look at how well he does out there in space,” continued Coach Henson, “I think we really want to do that with him.”
Coach Henson also said that he expects the Missouri tight ends become more involved in the passing game, as well.
“I think we can get (the tight ends) more involved,” explained Coach Henson. “Those guys are all coming along. And I think they’re all going to be pretty good play makers for us. I really do. Right now, the focus has really been on a couple of other things with the first group. But I think you’re going to see those guys get more and more involved as time goes along.”
Coach Henson said that the Tigers “have some depth there” at the tight end position.
There’s a competition brewing between a veteran and a rookie for the back-up job at the Z WR position. Junior Wesley Leftwich is healthy, and he’s playing well, similarly to the way he was a year ago before he was injured. Leftwich is Mizzou’s fastest receiver, with a 4.36-second 40-time, and a 44” vertical jump, and with his speed and explosiveness, he can take the top off the defense. Brown has size on his side, and he’s also very athletic, although not as fast. Brown appears to be very advanced for a true freshman, and he’s going to challenge Leftwich for that spot in the rotation.
“With this no-huddle offense, you can see those dudes run a couple of routes down the field, and then somebody else is in there the next play,” explained Coach Henson. “I think in this offense, you want to have eight (wide receivers), in a perfect world. But if you don’t have eight, then you got to take the two outside spots, and have one guy rotate between those two spots. And then have one guy rotate between your two inside spots. So, you might get into a six or seven man rotation.
Coach Henson pointed out that Leftwich and Otte are experienced, at least in practice, and that they know what to do at several different spots. And, he likes the freshmen receivers.
“I think (Leftwich and Otte) are pretty good, and they’re solid to have in there,” said Coach Henson. “I mean, they can play a lot of spots, and they know what to do. I think there’s some freshmen who have come in and have shown that they can do some things for us. We’ll see here, what’s going to happen. It’s great competition!”
On the other side of the football, Coach Cornell Ford has the most talented group of corners he’s ever had. They’re young.
“Corners for us have got to be physical,” explained Coach Ford. “They’ve got to be guys that can use their hands. Make the tackle. Take on guards when they have to. And they have to have the ability to make plays in space. Great speed, great quickness, with great flexible hips.”
Coach Ford talked a little about his current starting corners.
“(John) Gibson is probably a little bit more of a cover guy,” said Coach Ford. “Aarion (Penton) is a little bit more physical. But they’re both very capable. Those two played a lot last year. But now it’s all on them. That’s a little bit different role. But they’re coming along. They understand what we want. They understand how it looks. Now, we’ve just got to get them to do it a little better. They’re very excited! They want it. They want the reps. They want the opportunity. But they’ve got to earn it. They’re number one right now, but two weeks from now, I don’t know who will be number one. I told them all jobs are open. So, they know they have to continue to work, and continue to get better.”
Coach Ford talked about freshman Logan Cheadle, who’s been here since January.
“(Logan Cheadle) has all of those qualities,” explained Coach Ford. “He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s got to learn to play a little bit bigger than what he is. I think most corners have to play that way. The way we play, our corners have to play like linebackers.”
Coach Ford said that his current group of corners can cover and run with anybody.
“From a cover standpoint, that’s what we do best,” said Coach Ford. “Now, we’ve got to play more physical as a group. But athletically, we can cover anybody. We can run with anybody. It used to be my worry. I don’t have those issues now.”
Coach Ford talked about his two new freshmen.
“The new freshmen guys are very athletic,” said Coach Ford. “Finis (Stribling) is explosive! He just jumps out of the sky! And (Raymond) Wingo is extremely quick! I’m really, really pleased with his quickness. I think those two guys are going to push (the guys ahead of them). Now mentally, can we get them caught up? They’ve got a long ways to go. This is A to Z, and they’re still on A or B right now. They’re a long ways away. They’ve got to get a lot of reps, and a lot of extra time with those guys. I think one of them potentially might be able to help us this year. Which one, I don’t know yet. I’m going to try to push them to see if one of them can help us this year.”
Coach Ford went on to say that Cheadle is ahead of the other two freshmen, and that he is already in the mix to play this year. Coach Ford talked about his current group of corners.
“I am ecstatic!” explained Coach Ford. “Athletically, and to be able to run, we’re never had this much speed. We’ve had a little bit more size, but not this kind of speed. That’s the first thing you’re always looking for is the speed. Both of these guys who are coming in, man, they can go!”