A big story in Missouri football on Tuesday was the official naming of the Tigers new defensive coordinator, Dave Steckel.
Steckel, Mizzou's linebacker coach for the past 8 seasons, was promoted after former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus took a job with the Cleveland Browns.
"I'm just really humbled and honored that Coach Pinkel gave me an opportunity," Steckel told InsideMizzou.com. "Hopefully we are just going to play our butts off, run to the football, work on fundamentals and do what we are supposed to do."
Tuesday also marked the first day of spring practice for Mizzou football, and Steckel's defense already looked to be much improved. At the beginning of practice, the change was very evident.
Steckel started out by running communication drills with the first stringers, a main source of some problems during last season. The new coach could be heard yelling to his players to over-communicate if they had to.
Most of the defensive players seemed very excited about having Coach Steckel lead them this season.
"It's not going to be how it was last year, I think" sophomore safety Kenji Jackson said. "Just because Coach Steckel is a different type of guy."
Shifting to the player side of the defense, Sean Weatherspoon was the obvious vocal leader of the Tigers today. He is embracing the role and is proud to be the leader that the rest of the defense looks to when they get in to trouble.
"I'm just trying to lead my team a lot better than I did last season," Weatherspoon told the press after practice. "I just want to make sure I come out here with a positive attitude, because you know attitudes are contagious. If I come out with a positive attitude, maybe I can help some of the other guys out."
Head Coach Gary Pinkel noted he feel that the defense will take on Steckel's personality, which appears to be a bit more aggressive than who he replaced.
Defensive notes from practice
• Senior defensive end Brian Coulter was probably the most impressive defensive player of the day. He went all out on every single drill I saw him participate in, even though he was listed on the roster as "injured." With a possible chance to start this season, Coulter could be an impact player for the Tigers.
• Jacquies Smith looked comfortable in his role as the starting defensive end. He is a big guy and looked good in the 1 one 1 lineman drills. It is scary to think that this kid is only a sophomore and he can only get better from here.
• Sophomore defensive tackle Terrell Resonno is listed as the top defensive tackle for the Tigers and he looked pretty good. He wont be as good as Ziggy Hood, but he has time to improve into a leader on the defense. He was aggressive in 1 on 1 drills and constantly beat the guards that he faced.
• Josh Tatum is an animal. When you look at him all you can think of is a prototypical linebacker, so the coaches better find a way to get him on the field this season. The former USC recruit worked hard in practice and looked very fluid while pursing the ball carrier. Expect Tatum to jump up the depth chart very quickly.
• Although Sean Weatherspoon is the clear leader of the team, I saw Luke Lambert helping some of the younger players and goofing around a lot, a clear sign that he is comfortable with his spot on the team. The middle linebacker has to be the leader of the defense, so it is good for the Tigers that they have Lambert at that position.
• Jarrell Harrison, a community college transfer that plays safety, looked good in coverage and had very good hands. I can see him forcing himself into the starting lineup somehow if Hardy Ricks hasn't improved from last season. However, from what I saw from Ricks, he looked much improved so that competition will be a cool one to watch.
• Kenji Jackson was the most solid defensive back by far. Carl Gettis looked pretty good, but Jackson was on a completely different level. I didn't see him drop a ball all practice and he never let the ball come into his body, he always went to get it.
• Gettis and Jackson probably have their starting jobs on lockdown, but other than that, the secondary positions are wide open. Some of the defensive backs buried in the depth chart that I liked were Trey Hobson, Munir Prince and Kip Edwards.