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Missouri Spring Game 5 Things To Watch

The University of Missouri football team wraps up its spring practices with the Black & Gold Game on Saturday.

The Missouri Tigers conclude their spring practices with its annual Black & Gold Game at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Admission to the Black & Gold Game is free. Gates will open at 4 p.m. The first 5,000 people through the gates will receive a free Mizzou football t-shirt. Fans are encouraged to bring canned food items, which will benefit the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. 

The game will be televised live on SEC Network.

Here are five things to watch as the Tigers wrap up spring practice:

• TEMPO

New head coach Barry Odom hired Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator to overhaul an offensive attack that didn’t provide much offense last season under Gary Pinkel.

The Tigers haven’t revealed much about their new-look offense this spring during the limited viewing periods allowed to the media — and probably won’t during the Black & Gold Game, either — but there’s an obvious emphasis on going at a faster tempo that would allow for them to run more plays over the course of a game. 

• DREW LOCK

The Tigers have had three quarterbacks working throughout the spring in Drew Lock, Marvin Zanders and new JUCO signee Jack Lowary

Lock will return for his sophomore season as the incumbent starter but could be pushed by Zanders and/or Lowary. Lock was a promising prospect coming out of high school but had mixed results during his freshman season when he was pushed into the starting role after Maty Mauk’s off-the-field issues.

Lock has the physical tools to lead the new-look offense but will have to show improvement over his up-and-down debut when he completed 49 percent of his passes for 1,332 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions. 

Zanders is a dual-threat quarterback who appeared in just one game during the 2015 season after redshirting in 2014. He gives the Tigers a different look than Lock or Lowary, who are more traditional drop-back passers, and could give Mizzou a spark if Lock can’t move the offense.

• TEREZ HALL

Terez Hall was one of the surprises of the spring after seeing limited action, mostly on special teams, during 12 games as a freshman in the fall. 

At one point this spring Hall had worked his way ahead of incumbent starter Donavin Newsom at strong side linebacker. Earlier this week, Hall had moved to the weak side linebacker spot anchored by Kentrell Brothers and Newsom was back at SAM.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder looks like he’ll be a player to watch for years for the Tigers. Saturday’s scrimmage will be his first chance to show what he’s capable of. 

• RUNNING BACKS

Missouri will go into Saturday’s game with just four running backs — Ish Witter, Trevon Walters, Ryan Williams and walk-on Shaun Conway — and only one of them, Witter, has ever carried the ball for the Tigers in a game.

Witter led the team in rushing last season and is the obvious favorite to be the starter when the season opens at West Virginia. But if the Tigers are going to be more effective running the football in 2016 they need more from Witter or someone else to step up. 

Mizzou will get reinforcements at running back soon enough when Marquise Doherty returns from playing baseball and the two new signees, Natereace Strong and Damage Crockett, arrive on campus. But for now Walters and Williams will be two players to watch on Saturday.

Walters is coming off a season limited to just one game because of injury. Williams sat out the fall as a redshirt.

• OFFENSIVE LINE

There is a lot of pressure on the offensive line to perform better than it did throughout the disappointing 2015 campaign, but the group that takes the field in a few months at West Virginia will look a lot different than it did last season.

The only returners with starting experience are Alec Abeln and Nate Crawford and Crawford has missed time this spring after having surgery on his back. The Tigers also lost a few players because of injury or choosing not to continue playing, which depleted depth.

Two of the players to watch Saturday will be left tackle Tyler Howell, who joined the team this spring after signing out of junior college, and right tackle Paul Adams. Kevin Pendleton and AJ Harris are two youngsters to watch up front.

RELATED CONTENT: 

AJ Harris meets the media | Watch: Interview with Alec Abeln | S Ronnell Perkins ready to contribute | Watch: Interview with Ryan Walters | RB Ish Witter ready for bigger role | Glen Elarbee meets the media | Watch: Andy Hill meets the media | Missouri football spring practice photo gallery April 8 | Watch: Barry Odom meets the media | OLB Terez Hall impressing during spring | Watch: DeMontie Cross meets the media | Missouri football notebook: injury updates | Missouri football spring practice photo gallery April 5 | Missouri's Culkin talks role, 2016 goals | Finley impressed with Mizzou's TE group | Sherrils steps into bigger role for Mizzou | Missouri football notebook: Two players quit | Missouri football spring practice photo gallery March 22 | Aarion Penton back to lead Mizzou's secondary | Alec Abeln anchors new-look Missouri offensive line 

2016 MIZZOU SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

QUARTERBACKS | RUNNING BACKS | WIDE RECEIVERS | TIGHT ENDS | OFFENSIVE LINE | DEFENSIVE LINE | LINEBACKERS | DEFENSIVE BACKS | SPECIAL TEAMS

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com


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