On Thursday, Missouri continued Spring Football with the second practice this week, and the last of the practices which will be conducted in helmets and shorts. On Friday, the Tigers will pad up for the first time this spring. Following a two-plus-hour practice on sunlit Faurot Field, offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said that practice went well.
“Practice was good,” said Coach Ricker. “It was good to get outside for practice. We’re ready to put the pads on. It’ll be good to put some pads on. (But overall) it was a sold practice.”
Coach Ricker said that there’s good competition along the offensive line.
“There’s guys who are starters on paper,” said Coach Ricker, speaking of his current starting five. “I told the guys, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to be more consistent. At times, everyone was good, but we weren’t consistent enough, and they didn’t play at a high level. All jobs are open. And they know it. That’s what you want. I think we have more competition this spring with guys really close, which is good. I think the competition is going to be pretty heated. It’s going to be nice! You’ve got these young guys who are getting better. And there’s some hungry young guys that are making some moves. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Coach Ricker suggested that there could be almost daily movement up and down the Depth Chart.
“There’d better be,” said Coach Ricker, referring to upward and downward movement within the Depth Chart. “There better be. Every practice, guys are going to move up and down. And that’s the way it is with competition.”
In addition, he said that they’re taking a look at some guys at different positions. For instance, he pointed out that they’re looking at Andy Bauer and Sam Bailey at the center position. He also said that the move of Michael Fairchild to guard may be a more permanent move.
“I think guard might be (Fairchild’s) better (position),” explained Coach Ricker, who appears to be more settled in at his coaching position than he was last fall. “It’ll be musical chairs here for a while. Then you know as this thing goes along, we’ll kind of solidify it a little bit more. But we’ve got to see what we’ve got now. And you can’t ever have enough centers.”
The Tigers are in much better shape at offensive tackle than they were last fall, and one of their tackles is yet to arrive. Tyler Howell is expected to be here in June. But for now, veteran OT Taylor Chappell is being challenged by a trio of those hungry, young tackles, in Clay Rhodes, Nate Crawford, and Paul Adams. Then there’s the two newbies, in Malik Cuellar and Tanner Owen, both of whom immediately stand out just from the standpoint of their physical appearance and their obviously superior athleticism. Owen has done good work in the weight room, and he looks to be at least 280 pounds. He’s svelte and his long arms are beginning to bulge with musculature. He moves with grace and quickness that belie his natural size. He bends easily and naturally at the knees while he slides laterally with short, quick movements probably developed on the basketball court.
Cuellar is easily 300 pounds. He too, appears sleek for someone that large. His arms are long and powerful, and he moves quickly, although it appears that he’s having to relearn some of the footwork. When he knows where he’s going, he gets there very quickly. Cuellar and Owen are the two best OT prospects I’ve seen at Missouri.
Missouri Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, Barry Odom, also weighed in on Thursday’s practice.
“We’ll go in and take a look at the video and make our corrections,” explained Coach Odom. “You know, as Coach (Pinkel) said after practice, you only get 13 more opportunities. So, we’ve got a long ways to go. Guys are willing to work. And that’s important. They’re anxious to come out here and try to get better, and to try to be the best teammate they can be. So those are the things we’re going to build our foundation on. We’ll look at the video tonight, and see where we’re at.”
Coach Odom said that he’d only reviewed the video of one practice, so his current assessment was limited to generalities.
“I’m excited about our guys,” said Coach Odom. “I understand that we’ve got a long, long ways to go. It’s going to take a lot of work to get where we want to be. I’m excited about having that opportunity to go to work every day.”