On Saturday morning, the Tigers conducted the second of their bowl practices inside the Devine Pavilion. Once again, the emphasis was on getting increased reps for the younger players.
Coach Pinkel talked about today's practice and the importance of emphasizing good practice habits. "Well, I think overall, it was a good practice. I think there was a lot of enthusiasm. We did some physical drills that we normally do in spring football. We left the seniors and most of the starters out of that. We had full pads on today. I thought it was really good. I thought it was a great effort. It's really for all the young players who are getting most of the work in the team periods right now, players from the scout team, to get the habits that it takes to be a good player. There's only one way to get better as a football player on the practice field, and that's doing it start to finish on every play, and developing great habits. I talked to the team afterwards about that. I think this is going to be good, and we'll do this again on Sunday, and I think it will be very positive."
I spent most of the day watching the young guys, especially second and third teamers. On the offensive line, second team tackles, Justin Britt and Jack Meiners are impressive and improving. Mark Hill is getting some work at the LT spot on the third unit, after missing all of fall practice recovering from an injury. He's a talented athlete, and is making up lost ground quickly.
Justin Britt talked about the improvement that he's been making. "It's going pretty good. I'm getting to see a little bit of what it takes to be a starter............ I'm making really good progress, but there's always stuff to work on. I've still got a long ways to go."
Justin said that he would be willing to move anywhere on the offensive line that he was needed, but doesn't see the center position in his future. He's "consistently around 300 lbs." now, and has been repeatedly hitting personal bests in the weight room.
During one team period, Coach Henson was working with all the guards, and Coach Walker had the tackles. They were each demonstrating various techniques. After the starters took a turn in the one-on-one pass-blocking drills, they stepped aside, and the younger guys got their chance.
Jacquise Smith overwhelmed Jack Meiners, getting to the QB, then Coach Henson pulled Meiners aside, and took a little time for teaching him the appropriate footwork. Meiners came back and blocked Brad Madison, taking him to the outside, past the QB.
George White overpowered J.T. Beasley. Britt moved his feet, and did a nice job of blocking Michael Sam. Sam and Brayden Burnett are a couple of quick and powerful young athletes. Sam showed some explosiveness, running by Mark Hill on the outside. Coach Walker could be heard instructing Hill to "get deeper".
Several young receivers stood out today. T.J. Moe was catching everything today, including a couple of diving, fingertip grabs. Jaleel Clark and Kerwin Stricker are both very fluid in their movements, and appear to be reliable catching the ball. Clark had a nice grab of a high pass, as he went up and plucked it out of the air. Stricker was injured throughout fall camp, and I am just now seeing him really run. He's much faster than I realized, and looks to be a powerful runner, as well. Rolandis Woodland and Michael Egnew are both looking good, and are both very good after the catch. Egnew will run over or through a defender, while Woodland simply runs by them. After seeing these young receivers the last two days, I'm less worried about next year. There will be very good competition at those positions.
The players were very enthusiastic when it came time for the Mizzou and Tiger drills. These are one-on-one drills that are very physical and competitive. Tavon Bolden was among those who were very vocal in cheering on their teammates in this competition. Munir Prince dumped L'Damian Washington on his back. Stricker ran right over Robert Steeples. Moe ran through a Kip Edwards' tackle.