MEDIA IN ATTENDANCE
- TV: FOX Sports Net, KOMU (Columbia), (Columbia) and KRCG (Jefferson City)
- RADIO: KMOX (St. Louis), KFNS (St. Louis), KTGR (Columbia) KRES (Moberly)
- NEWSPAPER: the KC Star, Columbia Tribune, Columbia Missourian
- CYBER PUBLICATION: Supermizzou.net.
PREDICTIONS & OBSERVATIONS
- Freshman with the Best Chance to see action this year: Petterson, Howard, Harrington, Overstreet (not as a qb), and Whitney
- Offensive Linemen, the Eyeball Test: Mike Cook looks shorter than advertised, and AJ Ricker and Rob Droege both look significantly stronger and thicker than they did last fall.
- Happiest to be there: Darius Outlaw & Russ Bell
- Most Serious and All Business: Justin Gage and Brad Smith
ATTRITION STARTING TO HURT DEPTH
Cedric Harden today became the second Tiger this week to leave the team. Harden, a senior defensive tackle expected to lead the Mizzou defense and battle for conference honors, left the team this morning, and according to Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, due to personal reasons. Unlike his brief hiatus this summer, Harden has definitely left the program for good this time.
Earlier in the week, walk-on kicker Josh Randolph also left the team. Randolph, a freshman, was battling another freshman kicker, Alex Petterson. It was early in the competition, but both kickers seemed to be striking the ball evenly. Coach Pinkel said Randolph would not rejoin the team either.
The 2002-03 Missouri Tigers
PINKEL MEDIA DAY INTERVIEW SESSION
THERE ARE TWENTY-FIVE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN ON YOUR ROSTER. BEYOND RICKER, HOW MAY ARE YOU SURE OF?
"I think it is like any position on our football team. We are going in to two-a-days just like the start of spring football. Obviously AJ Ricker is the one that has the most experience, and Rob Droege played an awful lot last year. Cliff Young also played quite a bit. Other than that we don't have a lot of experience, gameday experience. So there is a lot of competition going on. How it's going to start out I don't know."
"A couple of junior college players have come in, and that generally lends itself to maturity. (That) gives them an opportunity to compete right away. I think we are in pretty good shape. We just got to let it sort out."
WHAT WAS THE STORY ON RACHMAN LOCKHART? TONY HARVEY TIPPED YOU GUYS OFF TO HIM?
"Yea, he just mentioned about him, and how he was a basketball recruit they had seen. He was a good high school football player, and was in kind of a decision-making mode himself as far as what he wanted to do. We did an evaluation, and feel like he certainly has an opportunity obviously. He's got four years of eligibility, and that weighed in quite a bit. If he had two or three we probably wouldn't have done it. But he's got four years of eligibility. It's going to take him awhile to adjust. You know, offensive line, probably other than quarterback and free safety, is probably the toughest thing …to learn, especially at this level."
DOES ANYTHING ON OFFENSE WORK GARY, IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, IF THE OFFENSIVE LINE DOESN'T COME TOGTHER QUICKLY?
"I would suggest on both sides of the ball that if your good up front, on defense and offense, that your probably going to have a pretty good football team. Obviously, you've got to have to get the skill people on offense on parallel. You have to have playmakers. But it is very difficult to be good, without being good up front."
IF YOUR GONNA HAVE A SOLID OFFENSIVE LINEMAN COMING BACK, IS IT BETTER TO HAVE HIM AT CENTER?
"Initially, I think maybe, just because that is a position that makes a lot of calls and does a lot of different things. You deal with what you're presented with here. Obviously AJ's experience level is going to be important for us, and we have high expectations for him. It's always good to have a center coming back."
COACH, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ABOUT THE QUARTERBACK RACE?
"I'm excited about a lot of races. A lot of competition, and we'll see how it sorts out. We start practice tomorrow morning, and we get going. We've got a lot of things to sort out. W e have to make a lot of improvement as a football team."
"I said this at the Big 12 Media meetings: Some teams just go in and they try to get refined, they try to get their tempo going, their timing going and we're not in that, we're not there. We've got to get better as a football team."
"So those positions like quarterback, offensive line, and some other positions, have got to sort themselves out also. How soon that will happen, I don't know. It could happen soon. It could go up to the first game."
GARY ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE TALENT YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE FROM AT THE QUARTERBACK POSITION?
"Well I feel good about our players, and I feel good about the quarterback situation. They have got to go in and compete."
COACH WITH THE WAY YOU THRIVE ON COMPETITON…WILL THE PLAYERS THIVE OFF OF THAT KNOWING YOU WANT THEM TO COMPETE HARD?
"Well, I would like to think that we have an achievement oriented program. It's goal setting: it's achieve, it's compete, and it's learn how to compete (against) yourself. Whether it's academics, whether it's player development program. They're constantly evaluated and tested. That creates a competitor. That's what that does. I think that the players in our program, they know me a lot more, and the program a lot more, but I know them a lot more as well. I know everything about everyone of these players right now. And the one thing that they have found in this program is everything is based on competition. Hopefully, that makes a more competitive team because a year ago we weren't very competitive."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF SEAN DOYLE THIS YEAR?
"He's played a lot. Well I would suggest that he's in the best shape of his life. As a leader, we are going to need him from a leadership standpoint, and have his best year he's ever had playing linebacker. And if he does that certainly lends itself on defense to make us definitely better."
DARIUS OUTLAW IS BACK WITH THE TEAM AS A WIDE RECEIVER. HOW QUICKLY DO YOU EXPECT HIM TO PICK THAT POSITION SINCE HE OBVIOUSLY KNOWS THE OFFENSE AS A QUARTERBACK?
"I don't know. We'll see."
DOES YOUR ROUTINE CHANGE MUCH IN THE SECOND YEAR?
PRACTICE? SCHEDULE? ROUTINE?
"No, we do what we do. That's one thing with our players they found out. You know, we have a system, and a process that we believe in. I think you will always tweak something, maybe in practice you might spend a few more minutes on an area that you need to make sure that you sort out some problems. We'll do things like that obviously in problem solving, but we do what we do. I think that makes a good statement to our players that will be here for the rest of their careers here."
GARY, BACK ON THE QUARTERBACK SITUATION. IF SMITH AND FARMER COME OUT PRETTY MUCH HEAD TO HEAD, DOES THE FACT THAT SMITH HAS A FUTURE AHEAD OF HIM, AND KIRK HAS ONE MORE YEAR LEFT, IMPACT ANYTHING IN YOUR DECISION?
"I don't look at class in any way. I don't do that. I will not do that. They're going to compete and how it comes out on the field is how we're going to determine what they do. Some people might say ‘let's play the young quarterback.' Why, because the future is in the young quarterback. The future is Illinois. That's my future. So we will do the best we can to let them compete and let them decide on the football field. And what I'll do is evaluate it. That's what I'm paid to do."
HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU SPENT ON ILLINOIS?
"We spend time on all our opponents. We have game plans, breakdowns, personnel breakdowns, offense/defense/kicking breakdowns on every opponent we play, so it's a very significant from the standpoint of the first game is the first game. We do the same thing every year for the first game."
DOES IT CHANGE ON WHO THE QUARTERBACK IS?
"Well I think you always look at personnel. I think that is true of both sides. When you're preparing for a team off of last year's video, there are a lot of times there is a significant number of players not playing anymore. You have to take that into consideration. As you all know that during a first game a lot of things can happen...on both sides. Offensively, defensively, scheme-wise, personnel wise, so that lends itself to making sure that from a gameplan standpoint that you don't do too much."
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO THESE J.C. GUYS BRING? FOR INSTANCE, A GUY LIKE ELLISON?
"Well I think the thing they can bring is the maturity, and being able to play right now at a high level in the Big 12. That's what we're looking for. That's why you recruited them, as a junior college player, to be able to come in. He doesn't need this time, as much time, to develop. For the most part what you're looking for in a junior college player is the maturity. That he can compete at a high level fast."
COULD THE QUARTERBACK RACE GO DOWN TO OPENING KICKOFF?
"Who knows? Time will tell."
WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO WIN THE QUARTERBACK RACE? WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT FOR YOU?
"You've got to move the football team, you've go to manage the game, and you've got to do good quarterbacking. It's not difficult to evaluate. I've been doing this for quite a while now. The thing that would make it more difficult is if the race is real, real tight. Obviously I've got to make those decisions. I've been encouraged by both of their efforts. Sonny's not out of this either. If you ask him right now, he plans on being the starter. I'm very pleased with the progress, and the efforts of those guys. It's a pretty good situation to be in. I like competition, and that'll make us a better team."
IS THIS THE EARLIEST YOU'VE STARTED CAMP IN YOUR COLLEGE CAREER?
"No, this is about normal. What happens is depending the criteria of when your first game is, when school starts, and that means you come in different days. The NCAA has a something you just plug in the numbers, and they tell you when you're allowed to do anything that you can. Nobody really has an advantage. It's all set based on the NCAA."
COACH IS THERE AN AREA ON YOUR TEAM THAT YOU'VE SAID TO THE COACHING STAFF, THAT IF WE IMPROVE IN THIS AREA WE WILL BE BETTER RECORD-WISE THIS YEAR?
"Well, I've always said that good football teams don't beat themselves, good football win the turnover part of games, good football teams have very sound kicking games. It's very difficult to win without taking care of those things. Even though we were better than (Missouri has been) in the past last year in the kicking game, we still weren't very good at all. We've got to get that sorted out. If you wanna win, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out ways that you win, and if we can get those in our favor, it increases our chances of winning."
KICKING RACE WIDE OPEN NOW?
"Yea, It's always wide open."
"I didn't get in this business to lose. We don't work as hard as we do, my players don't work as hard as they do, to lose. There's a process to winning, and what you also have to do is you have to play at a certain level to win. That's my job to teach these players how to do that."
COACH, HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS THIS PROGRAM NOW FROM A YEAR AGO?
"It's starting to look like it's supposed to look. The atmosphere. It happened in the spring, you could see it when you went in the weight room. The players acting the way they should: Some ownership, the work ethic. It's our program, not coach Pinkel's program. Are we there yet, no...not there after 18 months, but for the most part we are certainly making progress."
COACH, YOU'VE GOT 10 PLAYERS FROM THE KANSAS CITY AREA. PREVIOUS STAFFS HAVEN'T DONE VERY WELL IN KANSAS CITY. IS THAT A PLACE THAT YOU'LL TRY TO REFOCUS ON FROM A RECRUITING STANDPOINT?
"What is real important for us is the State of Missouri, whether it's St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Mexico, Moberly or wherever. We understand the uniqueness of the University of Missouri. There will probably be 10-15 top Big 12 athletes a year coming out of Missouri. The key is to get to the point where 80% of them are coming to Missouri. That's a great advantage being the only Division I school here. We've made progress there. I would suggest we got several national recruits out of the state last year, but also winning is going to help that even that much more. I think we all understand that."
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT WHAT THIS MATCH-UP WITH ILLINOIS COULD POTENTIALLY GENERATE FOR THE AREA?
"Well I think it's a big game. When they set the game up I didn't realize they had won the Big 10 Championship and gone to a BCS game. Coach Turner has done a great job. I think that's obvious. They're flying high. That was expected, but obviously in the year and half I've been here I've seen the rivalry in basketball and the impact that has on both sides of the fence. It's very, very exciting. It's spilling over to football, and it sets itself up for a great match. I would suggest that their program is a zillion miles ahead of ours right now, but it is something that our players are looking forward to the challenge."