Aug. 13 Practice Report

The Tigers worked out in full pads for the first time Friday morning. Check inside to find out how physical it was, along with why coach Gary Pinkel was not so pleased after practice.

To hear coach Gary Pinkel tell it, you would think he just took over the reins of a wayward program, one lacking talent and direction.

Pinkel was adamant about his team's performance after practice on Friday, tempering expectations and demanding more from his players.

"I've seen one thing (this week): we've got a long, long way to go," he said.

Despite the Tigers' preseason No. 17 ranking in the USA Today/Coaches' Poll, Pinkel said he would reshuffle Missouri's position dramatically if he were to vote tomorrow. "I'd vote us about 80," he said. "That's how long we gotta go."

Pinkel does have a vote this season, so his players must pick up the pace if they want to avoid their coach lampooning their position. However, there were several reasons for Pinkel to be concerned Friday.

The run defense in the 11-on-11 drill was inconsistent. The defense managed to stifle likely starter junior TB Damien Nash, but his understudies knifed through repeatedly. In one stretch during a first-and-goal drill, the offense scored from five yards out on three consecutive plays, as freshman Marcus Woods and seniors Beau Viehmann and Tyrone Roberson found the end zone in succession.

To put it bluntly, the run defense, a sore spot in big games last season, has not improved enough to please the coaching staff yet.

The passing game continues to be sporadic. Junior QB Brad Smith continues to struggle with placement, often underthrowing his targets. The coaching staff expects Smith to be more of a dual threat this season, but he has yet to prove he is capable of that. Further, several dropped passes eliminated potential completions. It may be early-practice jitters, but the Tigers must find consistency in the passing game to be successful.

Both the offense, with a more aggressive passing attack, and the defense, which switched to a base 4-3 alignment, are dealing with changes from last season. Pinkel said he can see the effort, but he has yet to find results.

"We're just out there battling, trying to get better," he said. "I think it's very difficult to even come close to looking at where the offense has come and where the defense is. We're not practicing consistently enough anywhere right now."

The coaching staff designs the structure of practice, Pinkel said, to encourage players to be competitive all of the time. The speed of the drills, which picked up a few notches Friday as the players practiced in full pads for the first time, forces players to be aware at all times.

"Our practices are pressure-packed and very competitive," Pinkel said. "They're designed so that it's competitive, it's 100 miles an hour. It (demands) remarkable intensity and remarkable focus.

"We have very few guys that can do it from the beginning of practice until the end of practice. When you finally get those guys that can do that, those guys are ready to play. It's obvious, I think, if you watch the practice, that we have a long way to go."

Pinkel noted redshirt freshmen Adam Spieker and Tyler Luellen, slated as starters on the offensive line, as players he expects to feed off the competition of practice and carry it over into game situations. He said he appreciated their effort, but suggested they will soon need more than that.

"Do I think they have ability? Yes. Do I think they're working hard? Yes," Pinkel said. "But you gotta go get it done. I'm very pleased with their efforts, but when you get in that first game, effort doesn't get counted. It's results… "We're not playing pinochle. We're winning."

Injury updates: Freshman TB Earl Goldsmith was the only player knocked out of practice Friday. He fell awkwardly during an option drill and limped off the field, where a member of the medical staff massaged and applied ice to his left thigh. Goldsmith did not return.

Junior WR Chris Crosby missed his second consecutive day of practice. He tweaked a hamstring Wednesday and wore the red shirt yesterday and again today. The issue is not seen as serious, however.

Sophomore K Alex Pettersen returned to full kicking duties after sitting out the second half of practice Thursday. He showed no lasting effects from the hamstring pains he experienced yesterday.

Beyond Goldsmith's injury and two small skirmishes, the players were composed in their first "thud" practice of the season. The 11-on-11 drill was more physical and more animated, as the coaching staff kept score for the first time, but the players were able to toe the line and not be overaggressive.

Impact players?: Pinkel has said that he is looking for receivers that can make big plays for the Missouri offense, and two candidates stated their case Friday.

Freshman Jerrill Humphrey made two spectacular catches in the seven-on-seven drill. The first was a leaping grab over a defender on the sideline; freshman QB Chase Patton's pass was a little high, but Humphrey leapt above his defender and came down with it. Freshman QB Darrell Jackson found Humphrey again a few minutes later, on a fade route in the back corner of the end zone.

Freshman William Franklin also made several fine plays and has established himself as one of the squad's most sure-handed receivers, even earning reps with the punt return team. Pinkel declined to name players who had made an impact by name earlier this week, but when asked Friday, he did.

"Humphrey made some plays today," he said. "Will Franklin's been making quite a few too. They're very athletic guys."

Pinkel said he was more interested in the receivers' ability to comprehend the Missouri system than the catches they make, however. "If you can learn the system and get it all down--and certainly the other side of being at this level is you have to know the other side of the ball almost as well as you know your side because it's so complex--that's all what we're out here for," he said.

Pinkel said the coaching staff would begin rearranging the depth chart after next Saturday's scrimmage.

Fashion statements: Along with full pads, the Tigers all brought out another look for the first time: gold pants. Fans of that look may have to sneak into practice to view them, however; the Tigers are not expected to wear gold pants in game action this season.

The offense will wear black when two-a-days begin tomorrow thanks to a stalemate in the 11-on-11 drill Friday. The winning side of the ball gets to wear black, but the sides tied Friday, allowing the offense to be back in black again Saturday.

Catch of the day: In the first round of the 11-on-11 drill, Smith found junior WR Sean Coffey in the end zone. Coffey had a defender between him and the ball, and deflected it up into the air, juggled the ball as he fell to the ground, and corralled it for a 30-yard touchdown and one of the prettiest catches of the week.

Hit of the day: There were two brief skirmishes today, but one, the first, stood out. Senior LB James Kinney and junior TB Damien Nash jawed at each other briefly after senior DT Atiyyah Ellison dragged Nash down. Nash was not too happy about Kinney entering the fray and went after Kinney, prompting the other 20 players on the field to rush in to protect their teammates. Freshman TB Marcus Woods scored on the next play (followed by rushing scores on the next two plays) to avenge Nash. Sophomore DT Fabian Bean and junior G Tony Palmer tangled briefly in the day's other ruckus.

Quote of the day: "I'm not really interested in (players) having fun in practice. You know what fun is? Winning. That's fun."

--Pinkel, on whether keeping score in the 11-on-11 drill makes practice more fun for his players.

Audibles: If Goldsmith misses any significant time with freshman Tony Temple currently unavailable, freshman Jimmy Jackson should get more reps. The Caruthersville native has been steady, but has struggled to do much damage running behind the fourth-team offensive line. … Sophomore S Brandon Massey worked as the up-man in the punt formation Friday. Massey did not appear too comfortable, drawing the attention of his coaches after he missed a block that would likely have resulted in a blocked punt in a game situation. … Freshman walk-on K Adam Crossett continues to have the biggest leg on the team. He appears to be the leading candidate to at least handle the kick-off duties at this point. … Sophomore QB Brandon Coleman should prove an adequate stopgap if Smith is injured. He is very mobile and moves out of the pocket well, but does not have the speed that makes Smith such a dangerous weapon.

Looking ahead: The Tigers begin two-a-days Saturday morning at 8:15, returning to the field at 3:45 in the afternoon. Pinkel said he expected the players to practice in pads and focus on conditioning in the morning session and go less physical in the afternoon.


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