On Friday morning, Missouri practiced for over two hours on Faurot Field in full pads. Things are getting physical, and the defense came out on top in the daily scoring.
“It was our first day in full pads, and we got in a lot of good work,” said Coach Pinkel, as he came off the field. “Overall, we did a lot of good things.”
Coach Pinkel reported that Cortland Browning injured his shoulder, and he joined Braylon Webb and Connor McGovern on the limited contact list. All three participated in practice, but were held out of the full contact periods. Coach Pinkel wasn’t sure which of the three would be ready for full contact by Tuesday’s first scrimmage.
Coach Pinkel also said that freshman Raymond Wingo was absent from practice on Friday due to a death in the family.
And there’s still nothing new 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.
With pads popping along the line of scrimmage, Friday offered the staff a better look at the linemen, as well as their first real evaluation of the running backs.
“You learn a lot more about what you have up front (in full pads),” explained Coach Pinkel. “We’ve got every drill on video. Today we’ll go in as a staff, starting at twelve noon, and we’ll watch every single play of the whole practice over as a whole staff. We’ll evaluate, and the most important thing is helping guys get better and coaching them up fundamentally to become better.”
“I think (the tailbacks) did pretty good overall,” said Coach Pinkel. “Russell Hansbrough did really good. That’s going to be interesting to see. The young tailbacks looked pretty good, too. Tyler Hunt did good. We’ll see what happens. It’ll be a big decision how we handle Murph. And our health at tailback is going to be important. So, we’ll kind of see how that whole thing unfolds. We know now that Murph can play receiver, without question. And we also know that he can be a great running back. So, it’s a good situation to be in. Health kind of always dictates kind of which direction we’ll go.”
Coach Pinkel said that Morgan Steward has looked good.
“Morgan tweaked his hip a little bit today,” said Coach Pinkel. “But he’s been doing great! Unbelievable! We’re expecting him to be just a high, high level player.”
Coach Pinkel said that the competition for the back-up job at QB is “wide open”, and he said that it’s “critically important” to get the back-up QB ready to play. Currently, Corbin Berkestresser is still ahead of Eddie Printz, although obviously, it’s a very close competition. Both players are taking reps with the second and third units.
Coach Pinkel also said that they’re continuing to evaluate all of the wide receivers, along with everyone else.
“We’re looking at everybody,” said Coach Pinkel. “Right now, the first day of pads, we’re looking at every single freshman, as I walk around and take notes on every freshman that’s out there. Can any of these guys help us this year?”
As previously discussed, most of the more closely contested competitions for spots are taking place at the level of the second and third units, primarily among young players. Fast risers like Michael Fairchild and Charles Harris are solidifying their second team status, and numerous very talented young players are jockeying for playing time this year.
But the starting offense and defense feature mostly veteran players, with 14 of the current starting 22 being 4th or 5th-year players. And almost to a man, those veterans are the best they’ve ever been. Certainly, all of the ones who have been healthy are at a career-best level of performance.
The remaining starters are very talented sophomores and third-year juniors, who have won starting jobs by working hard and making significant improvement.
Coach Pinkel talked about how even NFL veterans and All-Pros continue to improve by working on and improving their fundamentals.
“I tell our players all the time that if you go to an NFL camp, you’ll see all the receivers there, whether they’re All-Pros that have played several years in the NFL, you’ll see every one of them doing the same fundamentals that you’re doing right here,” said Coach Pinkel. “And these guys have been playing eight years in the NFL, and they might be All-Pro. And guess what? It’s still about fundamentals and working hard. And so, that’s what we tell our players that have experience here, you can get better! Shoot, it happens all the time.”