Practice Report, August 11th

The Tigers practiced with shoulder pads for the first time Wednesday and the intensity picked up noticeably. Check inside to see how that affected the drills, along with why Tony Temple did not practice today and might not again in the near future.

There is just something about strapping shoulder pads on for the first time in a while that makes a player want to go out and knock people around a little bit.

People who have never played football before may not understand it, but it's something that never quite leaves your system.

But such aggression is best suited for fall Saturday afternoons, not late-summer Wednesdays. The Tigers practiced in shoulder pads for the first time today, showing a consistent amount of restraint. After all, they have to. Coach Gary Pinkel demands it and the last thing anybody wants is to injure a teammate.

"Instinctively, you gotta back off," Pinkel said afterward. "You have to do it. If you don't, you're gonna get people hurt...

"Instincts for the defensive player are such that you have to control them so we don't get somebody hurt."

The Tigers participated in what the coaching staff calls "high thud" Wednesday, meaning defenders are allowed to make high contact with their shoulder pads but are only allowed to tag their counterpart, not tackle them. Starting Friday, the players will graduate to "thud," which allows defenders to make contact from the waist up and wrap up their opponent.

It is a concept that players learn quickly, but one that can be forgotten in the heat of the moment. As frustrating as it may be, defenders must allow the offense room to maneuver.

"They can't play the ball," Pinkel said. "The offense wins. If a defensive and offensive player are in tag, you have to shadow a player. You gotta back off."

This makes seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills somewhat awkward, as defenders must stay close to the receivers without making physical contact with them. It often results in upbraiding from the coaching staff, who might see a player let up before they blow the whistle, attempting to follow the practice's rules.

The freshmen, who are not completely familiar with the distinction, often end up on the ground, much to their coaches' chagrin. However, learning restraint is all part of the training process, Pinkel said.

"We'll have more problems with freshmen right now than anybody because they're fighting for their lives right now, trying to figure things out," he said.

It is not just the youngsters who struggle with it. Senior LB James Kinney, perhaps the defense's most experienced player, threw a teammate to the ground in a seven-on-seven drill Wednesday.

These limitations will not last too much longer, though. Friday brings a new set of rules to the practice field.

"When we get full pads on, then we'll play the ball live and tag off, or play the ball live and ‘thud,'" Pinkel said. "Then, if they have a chance to make a play, they go make it. " Temple of Doom: Freshman TB Tony Temple was noticeably absent from Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. Pinkel announced after practice that the Kansas City high-school standout has not received approval from the NCAA clearinghouse, which confirms all freshmen before they can practice with their squad.

Missouri is in the process of appealing, but no timetable has been set for Temple's return. He had practiced the first two days this week, but for now, the coaching staff can only do one thing as the appeal works its way through to the NCAA: wait.

"Hopefully we'll get him back here pretty soon," Pinkel said.

Pinkel declined to comment on the specifics of Temple's situation, but clearinghouse issues are often connected to academics (e.g. core test scores and SAT results.)

Almost the real deal: The Tigers participated in an 11-on-11 drill for the third consecutive day, but the drill was longer and more detailed Wednesday. The offense continued to focus on the passing game, which continues to develop.

In one of the few matchups of the top offensive and defensive units, junior QB Brad Smith scrambled away from pressure and flipped the ball to senior WR Thomson Omboga, picking up a short gain.

Senior TB Tyrone Roberson could not as easily evade the defensive push and was dropped several times behind the line of scrimmage. There was little he could do; a more experienced defensive line continually took advantage of Roberson's younger blockers.

The freshman quarterbacks have shown flashes of brilliance but still appear to be continually frustrated. Mack Breed struggled to read a zone defense, attempting to force a ball into triple coverage, allowing senior CB A.J. Kincade to intercept it. Columbia native Chase Patton appears both composed and confused on occasion when he rolls out of the pocket. On one play, he found junior TE Jason Gannon with a strike to the sideline, and then overthrew his receiver by 10 yards on the next throw on the move.

Wide-ranging impressions: Pinkel has repeatedly said he is searching for impact players in the receiving corps, and he mentioned that a handful of players have impressed him thus far. Junior Sean Coffey was the first player Pinkel offered, but Omboga, sophomore Brad Ekwerekwu, and freshmen Jason Ray, Will Franklin and Jerrill Humphrey all merited a mention.

"That's gonna be sorted out," Pinkel said. "I'm being very honest and open about our passing game, about how much we wanted to improve. The passing game isn't Brad Smith throwing the ball better; the passing game is everybody getting involved."

Catch of the day: In the seven-on-seven drill, Smith threw to Coffey on a fade. It was slightly underthrown, forcing Coffey to spin around and fight through blanket defense from junior DB Marcus King to make the catch, resulting in a 35-yard completion.

Hit of the day: Kinney proved that even the most experienced player could forget the rules of practice. During the seven-on-seven drill, Kinney popped freshman TB Jimmy Jackson to the turf after a short completion, leading to coach Matt Eberflus yelling "Tag! Tag! Tag!" to remind him of the rules in effect.

Quote of the day: "We're probably going to play some other people there. (But the redshirts) gotta play. You gotta do what you gotta do."

--Pinkel, on if it concerns him that two redshirt freshmen, T Tyler Luellen and C Adam Spieker, are slotted to start on the offensive line.

Audibles: Luellen looks incredibly strong in matchup drills against his fellow offensive linemen. He pushed his opponent back several yards multiple times in the drill. … The foursome of Omboga, freshman TB Marcus Woods, freshman DB Alex Woodley and freshman WR William Franklin received reps as punt returners. Woodley often appeared hesitant when the ball neared, resulting in a couple of muffs. … Woods' speed glistened in an option drill and the 11-on-11. His ability to get to the sideline quickly will make him invaluable if the coaching staff tabs him as a return man. … Sophomore K Alex Pettersen is emotional about his kicks. He jumped up and clapped his hands after a medium-range kick rang off the right upright and through.

And one more thing: A follow-up on yesterday's note on sophomore DE Brian Smith. In the 11-on-11 drill, Smith shot around the end and dragged down junior TB Damien Nash from behind. Smith is practicing with the second unit of the defensive line, but the coaching staff will have a hard time keeping him off the top unit if he continues to make plays like that.

Looking ahead: The Tigers practice at 3:45 p.m. again tomorrow. Friday morning's practice will be the first in full pads, ratcheting up the players' intensity level before two-a-days begin Saturday.

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories