Final Week Preview

The latest information from the Tigers camp. What competitions are still undecided? What are the Tigers going to do about their depleted defensive end position? Are there any late surges happening in the depth?

Gary Pinkel's 2003 pre-season camp ends with a scrimmage on Thursday. Here are five things to look for in the final week.

1) Will Zack Abron or Xzavie Jackson be back before camp breaks?

I'd look for Abron, but it will probably be a while before anyone sees Jackson in drills. Both of them suffered injuries in Saturday's scrimmage, but Abron's high ankle sprain is much less serious than Jackson's broken foot. Pinkel said he expects Abron to be back by the end of the week. He's been wearing a red jersey in camp and staying out of contact drills.

Look for Damien Nash to be taking all of the snaps with the first team and Tyrone Roberson, Marcus Woods and Beau Viehmann to split time with the second and third teams.

The surprising advanced Jackson will have surgery on Monday, and Pinkel hope he will be back in three to four weeks.

2) What has happened to the defensive line?

One of the few defensive strengths from last year's team has suddenly become a glaring question mark for Mizzou. There are only two returning starters on the defensive line: Aatiyah Ellison and Russ Bell. Brian Smith has been sitting out the last couple of days with an eye infection. Smith has great speed but no experience. The same goes for Zach Ville. The short-term loss of Jackson damages the shakey depth at defensive end that was already hurt by the loss of Nick Tarpoff, Terrell Mills and freshman Gartrell Cooper. Look for converted offensive lineman Rusty Groth to get a chance to play significant minutes with the first team defense in camp and also during the first part of the season.

We have also heard whispers that one of the freshmen linebackers will be given a crack at defensive end this week as well.

3) Can any backups crack the top three at receiver?

It's looking very unlikely. After Saturday's scrimmage, it seems the trio of Darius Outlaw, Thomson Omboga and Sean Coffey is pretty set to take snaps with Brad Smith. Marcus James and Chris Crosby could get some time, but Outlaw, Omboga and Coffey have all been solid, and they haven't allowed much room for the others to sneak into the starting lineup.

4) Will the Tigers ease up if it continues to heat up?

Don't bet on it. The Tigers had a short practice on Sunday only because of the long scrimmage on Saturday. In fact, Pinkel said he loves the heat, and he wishes it would be hotter than Sunday's 92-degree afternoon. It was cloudy most of last week, and Pinkel said it was too cool, so he's happy to see the forecast in the 90s for this week. Expect harder and harder practices and camp and the Illinois game draw closer.

5) Which competitions are still being decided?

First off, one of the starting guard positions appears to be up in the air. Cliff Young already has one of the spots locked up, but the other one comes down to a battle between Joe Gianino and Tony Palmer. Gianino has played better than Palmer and is the fastest offensive lineman on the team. Will that be enough to hold off Palmer who played well last season when given the opportunity? No one will likely know that answer until next August 25, when Pinkel releases his first depth chart since last spring.

Another battle is at free safety, where Nino Williams and David Overstreet are competing. Both have looked good after switching from different positions, but it seems Williams has the slight edge.

At tight end, it comes down to J.D. McCoy and Victor Sesay. McCoy had a great scrimmage, and he and Brad Smith have found a good connection. But even Smith can't deny the tremendous size and talent of Sesay. Sesay was set back by a knee injury in the middle of camp, and it will be interesting to see if he has caught on to the Tigers' system by the end of camp.

Finally, Mike Matheny is trying to catch Alex Petterson at kicker, but right now, Petterson has been so accurate that Matheny will really have to wow the coaches in the final week to claim the starting role. We welcome your feedback and questions on the Member's Board.

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