Sixteen days after he was arrested by Columbia police on suspicion of marijuana possession, sophomore LB David Richard was officially suspended from the team for Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener against Colorado and disappeared from the depth chart.
In his place, fellow sophomore Marcus Bacon gets a chance to step into the starting role. Bacon has fared well as a reserve, recording four tackles, including one for a loss.
Coach Gary Pinkel was brief about the situation.
"He has been suspended for this game for disciplinary reasons," he said, declining to go into specifics. Richard's long-term status remains to be seen, but the fact that he started in the first game after he was arrested, the 48-0 home win against Ball State on Sept. 18, suggests Richard still has a future with the Tigers.
Richard had played well but has not been an impact player. He recorded just six tackles in the first three games, none for a sack or a loss. He was an important part of the middle of the defense but had not become the force that some expected him to be after the coaching staff moved him there from tailback.
Without Richard, the depth chart was radically altered. Senior Henry Sweat, who had been seeing action as the back-up at middle linebacker, was shifted to the strong side, where he will back up Bacon. Sweat can play all three linebacker positions and has the confidence of the coaching staff to play wherever it needs him. Sophomore Emmett Morris, who has recorded one tackle on special teams, moved into Sweat's old spot behind sophomore Dedrick Harrington.
The coaching staff will ask a lot of Bacon in his first career start, but has a more than adequate reserve in Sweat. In a way, the linebacker corps becomes more experienced with this move, as Bacon has played the position longer than Richard has and Sweat will see his share of action. Harrington will have to step up his play without Sweat on his heels, but the Tigers should not be hurt by the move too much.
More depth movement: The rest of the depth changes were not a surprise, as they reflected moves made before the Ball State game.
Junior Marcus King has officially passed senior A.J. Kincade at one corner position and will start opposite senior Shirdonya Mitchell against the Buffaloes. Senior Tony Clinker maintained his starting job at weak tackle, taking over for freshman Tyler Luellen, who started the first two games of the season.
Also, senior WR Thomson Omboga, who exploded for 127 yards on six returns against the Cardinals, officially moved past Mitchell as the top punt returner.
Pinkel said he expects the competition at corner and on the offensive line to continue.
"The battle at corner, that's just gonna be going on," he said. "Same thing with the offensive line. We'll just see how that goes. Everybody's going to play there; Tyler's gonna play. We will always have competition"
Fighting back: Junior DT C.J. Mosley, like all of the Tigers, said he was looking forward to opening conference play this weekend. Mosley seemed to have a bad taste in his mouth over the nonconference schedule, which was highlighted by a surprising loss at Troy. He is more than ready to make up for that upset.
"We played the smaller teams and got our butt kicked by one," he said. "It was a slap in the face, but now it's time for us to slap some people in the face."
Goodbye, bye: Besides the Richard incident, the Tigers made it out of their first bye week in good shape. Pinkel said the team focused on a handful of issues during its time off.
"I think we got a lot of things accomplished, as far as what you kind of want to get done in bye weeks," he said. "Rest, you want to jump ahead academically, hopefully, or get caught up. You want to heal some injuries. You want to get better as a football team and prepare for your next opponent. We kind of did a combination of all those things."
Getting deeper: Colorado coach Gary Barnett suggested Monday that the Tigers are a more imposing group offensively this season because they have more playmakers at wide receiver.
Pinkel refuted that, suggesting the group just has more experience and maturity this time around. Still, he said he has been very impressed with the tight end corps, particularly the freshman from St. Joseph.
"Obviously T Rucker is the biggest surprise, to be able to play like he's playing, being such a young player," Pinkel said. "It's pretty amazing. His maturity level as a competitor, for his age, you just don't see that happen very often."
Looking straight ahead: Colorado will be Missouri's biggest test of the season, and how the team fares against the Buffaloes could determine the course of its season. Pinkel said the team was focused on that, but that he expects every match-up to be a dogfight.
"I go into every game thinking it's going to be a battle," he said. "What you do is, you just prepare. You prepare and you work real hard on your game plan like you do in every one of your games. We obviously have a lot of respect for them. I don't think there's a guy in the locker room that's beat Colorado, nor a coach."
Colorado has won its past five games against Missouri and 17 of the past 19 overall.