Media day report: Oct. 18

As always, the Tigers spoke with the media Monday in their weekly mandatory meeting. Get all of the news, including a few changes on the depth chart and coach Gary Pinkel's thoughts on one of this week's marquee Big 12 matchups.

Depth movement: Monday's two-deep reaffirmed a few changes that surfaced against Texas. Sophomore Marcus Bacon, who started the past two games, was replaced by sophomore David Richard at the top of the chart at strong-side linebacker. Last week, the players were listed as "Richard OR Bacon," so, now that the OR is gone, apparently the coaching staff has made the decision on who will start, at least for now.

Senior Henry Sweat passed sophomore Dedrick Harrington at middle linebacker. As a whole, Sweat has seen more playing time than Harrington has the past few games. He started against Texas and will do the same against Oklahoma State, barring any late changes.

These two positions will probably not be settled soon, coach Gary Pinkel said Monday.

"There's change and a lot of battles going on with two players," he said. "That might be we start one if he plays a little better, and next week, we'll start the other. That's just competition that makes us a better football team."

Tight battle at tight end: It did not take long for freshman TE Martin Rucker to reward the coaching staff's faith in him. After a strong training camp, he was named the starter for the season opener against Arkansas State and promptly scored his first career touchdown against the Indians. Pinkel said that decision to move him ahead of senior Victor Sesay is a trend that Missouri's coaches attempt to maintain.

"One thing that is very clear in our program is that there is not a pecking order," he said. "Because you played the year before doesn't mean you're gonna play this year. Whether you're a redshirt freshman in T Rucker and you got a starter coming back, if you play better, you're gonna play. I think our players respect that. We use that in recruiting and the proof is what happens."

Not a concern: Missouri faced Texas' Vince Young on Saturday and will face another young, athletic quarterback in Donovan Woods this weekend. Both players share the designation of being black quarterbacks, a position choice that was rarely afforded not too many years ago.

When presented with the situation Monday, Pinkel said race is never a concern for him and his coaching staff. Citing the success Warren Moon had at Washington, Pinkel said such a concept no longer is relevant today, to him and his staff, at least.

"We have an evaluation and go through every single player," he said. "Race isn't one of (the factors). We recruit people. If they're good enough, good students…maybe the public gets caught up more in that stuff. I never even looked at it. It never fazed me a bit in any way."

Poll position: After briefly making an appearance in the USA Today/Coaches' Poll last week, the Tigers slipped out of both polls after losing to Texas. Because of the quality of their opponent and the small margin of defeat, the Tigers continue to receive votes in both polls, ranking No. 28 in the Coaches' and No. 31 in the Associated Press Poll.

Oklahoma State's 36-20 home loss to Texas A&M knocked the Cowboys down a few notches, resting at No. 21 in the Coaches' and No. 23 in the AP.

What game?: Much of the focus in the Big 12's North division this week will be on the Kansas State-Nebraska matchup. The Wildcats, at 0-3 in the conference and in a downward spiral after playing well but losing to Oklahoma on Saturday, need a win to salvage any chance at the division crown. Meanwhile, Nebraska (2-1 and tied for first with the Tigers) can prove that its disastrous showing at Texas Tech two weeks ago was a fluke.

While that game may be a focus elsewhere in the league, Pinkel said he has more pressing concerns.

"Until you told me that, I had no idea who was playing who," he said. "There's great opportunities out there for everybody in our division, not just Missouri. Now, who's going to take advantage of it? We all know that every single game is so critically important."

So, Coach, if you don't pay attention to the rest of games, when do you find out what happened elsewhere in the conference?

"I'll never tell," he said, with a wry smile. "I might be a bit more aware than you might think I am."


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