Missouri remains remarkably healthy. Maybe a little divine intervention has helped the team along…
"My first prayer this morning, at 3:30 when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, as usual, that's my first thing: ‘Protect my team,'" coach Gary Pinkel said after Thursday's scrimmage. "You want to get to the show with a full squad intact."
The Tigers are very close to that. Senior Scott Paffrath, the projected starter at right tackle, did not participate in the scrimmage Thursday and remains sidelined with a right MCL injury. He is close to returning, however: Pinkel said the medical staff plans to remove Paffrath's splint Thursday evening and allow him to start running on Friday. If all goes well, he will be back to full practice Tuesday.
Freshman TB Marcus Woods, who could split time with junior Damien Nash, did not participate in the scrimmage. He turned an ankle in practice and the medical staff put him in the red pullover, holding him out of the contact drills. The injury is not considered serious.
Besides those two, the only concerns are a few bumps and bruises. Pinkel said it would be a mistake to underestimate how important it is to get through a scrimmage without injuries.
"We made it through today healthy," he said. "That's huge."
Temple takes off: Freshman TB Tony Temple tasted the first full-contact scrimmage of his collegiate career Thursday. He got several touches late, racking up 22 yards on five carries. After being buried behind the line of scrimmage and losing six yards on his first carry, Temple responded with gains of eight and 14 yards, flashing an impressive quickness to the sideline.
"He did some good things, didn't he?" Pinkel said. "A little quickness, huh? He's pretty tough, too; fresh legs, you can tell that, too. He's a quick athlete; I think everybody saw that."
The other two freshman backs competing with Temple, Jimmy Jackson and Earl Goldsmith, received only a few touches as well. Jackson picked up two yards on two carries, while Goldsmith amassed 24 yards on three carries, including a nice jaunt for 15 yards.
Senior Tyrone Roberson did not see the field until the very end of the scrimmage, when he was given a few handoffs against the No. 3 defense.
Crossett can kick back: Two of the three kicking jobs appear to be settled.
Freshman Adam Crossett appears to have locked up the kick-off duties. He was the only one to participate in the kick-off drills before the scrimmage began. Both of his kicks easily reached the end zone.
"It's obvious," Pinkel said. "He's doing a good job."
The punting duties appear to be settled as well. Although senior Brock Harvey entered the fall behind sophomore Matt Hoenes on the depth chart, he appears to have passed him and locked down the spot. Both players punted five times Thursday; Harvey averaged 39.8 yards per boot, while Hoenes averaged 38.6 yards. Hoenes' fourth punt, which sailed 48 yards, was the day's longest kick.
In an unusual development, Pinkel tipped his hand on the punting situation after the scrimmage.
"Brock's going to be the punter right now," he said. "He's got that spot."
The placekicking job remains up for grabs, with sophomore Alex Pettersen and junior walk-on Joe Tantarelli continuing to position themselves. Pettersen has led the competition throughout the fall, and he fared well Thursday, connecting on five of his seven kicks, with the longest make from 41 yards. Pettersen missed an extra point at the end of the scrimmage, however.
Tantarelli was also strong, making six of his seven kicks, also with a long of 41. He converted both extra points he attempted.
"As far as the kickers, I don't know," Pinkel said. "We'll have to evaluate it. They're competing; I think that's good. They did a lot better today…
"You can get in practice and do the specialty period all you want, but when you get out here in front of people and your life's on the line and your teammate's life's on the line, it's a little bit different. I thought they responded well."
Walking back on: The coaching staff welcomed 15 walk-ons to the roster Wednesday. Many of the players participated in spring practices but were unable to arrive in Columbia for training camp this fall.
The new and returning players are: junior QB Scott Houska (#5), freshman WR Lucas Null (#10), freshman DB Alisteir Bell (#14), freshman TB Kevin Duncan (#15), freshman DB Tyler Willy (#17), freshman QB Derek Randall (#19), freshman S Adam Casey (#28), sophomore WR Darren Meade (#31), freshman S Jordan Bond (#34), sophomore LB Andrew Topps (#38), freshman S Michael Matsko (#41), junior DL Joe Ensminger (#49), freshman LB Eric Griffin (#53), freshman OL Ryan Tepen (#69) and freshman DL Keith Hessel (#90).
None of the walk-ons participated in the scrimmage.
Catch of the day: Freshman TE Martin Rucker made two nice grabs on the afternoon. His first, a juggling catch over the middle while covered by two defenders off a pass from freshman QB Chase Patton, went for 10 yards.
Hit of the day: Sophomore T Joel Clinger made quite the impression while filling in for Paffrath. As Patton scrambled to his left and threw downfield, Clinger blindsided senior DT Phil Pitts, sending Pitts to the ground and his helmet flying to the sideline.
Quote of the day: "I can't tell you. And you know, if I knew what I was gonna do, I'd tell you guys for sure." --Pinkel, on his willingness to discuss the depth chart at the crowded tailback position.
Audibles: Temple's performance Thursday, considering he had missed a week of camp and had not seen full-contact hitting in months, was very impressive. Despite the strong work of Jackson, Temple's game-breaking speed must make him incredibly tempting for the coaching staff. Pinkel has said he wants four running backs ready to play every game. Jackson or Temple will be the fourth, but the good news is that both could still be redshirted, assuming no injuries surface. … Sophomore WR Andrew Hoskins continues to receive reps with the second team offense. He has gone from a non-factor to a potential fourth or fifth wide-out very rapidly. … How the depth is determined at defensive end should be interesting. Three players--senior Zach Ville and sophomores Xzavie Jackson and Brian Smith--have the talent to start. Ville appears to be established; perhaps Jackson and Smith will rotate in and out, with Smith seeing the field in passing situations. … Nobody has arisen as a playmaker at cornerback. This could be a concern, but the current group--senior Shirdonya Mitchell and juniors A.J. Kincade, Marcus King and Calvin Washington--should prove to be adequate, if not flashy. … Only nine days until Arkansas State ventures into "The Zou."
Looking ahead: The Tigers are off Friday, before returning to practice Saturday and Sunday. Both sessions are closed to media. Our next chance to get a look at the team will be Monday, when the team begins its weekly Media Days.