The Missouri Tigers kicked off spring football practice today, in shorts and helmets (shells), inside the Devine Pavilion. They are required to practice in shells again on Thursday, before "padding up" on Saturday. There are numerous roster and depth chart changes, as well as some uniform number changes. I'll take care of all that on the depth chart stickied on the premium message board. Of particular note is that junior OL J.T. Beasley has left the team.
There are a number of injuries to report, and most of those are guys who will miss all of spring ball. Those will be included when I update the depth chart. There are a few injuries to report that will be returning during spring ball. Dominique Hamilton sat out today in a red jersey, with a minor leg injury. He said he'd be back out there soon. De'Vion Moore ran pass routes in a red pull-over, and I expect that he'll be participating fully before too much longer. Terrell Resonno pulled up lame during practice, and limped off to the training room. We'll have more on him later.
Practice began with a number of individual and group drills. These provided an opportunity to see everyone in action. On the hoof, Hamilton and Aldon Smith are two of the more impressive-looking guys on the team. They're taking on the physical appearance of NFL players.
James Franklin and Tyler Gabbert are both very gifted, although they are distinctly different. Franklin's a big guy, and looks the part of a Division 1 athlete. He's quick, and has a strong and accurate arm. He's quick with his release, and moves around better than any QB the Tigers have had since Brad Smith. Tyler Gabbert is smaller, and not as physically impressive, but has nearly flawless throwing mechanics, and looks very fluid setting up and delivering the ball. He too, has a very strong and accurate arm. These are two very-high level QB prospects.
A couple of other guys who caught my eye today were LB Josh Tatum, and TB Kendial Lawrence. Tatum looks good, even if he did appear a little rusty on some drills. I think he has put in a lot of work, and is probably real anxious to quickly impress. Lawrence looks really quick, and did a nice job catching the ball today.
Coaches Steckel, Ford, and Kuligowski spent quite a lengthy segment working with a large group of players on various aspects of special teams play, including blocking for punts and punt coverage, blocking punts and field goals, and on releasing from the line of scrimmage. A good deal of emphasis was placed on technique, including footwork. Each of the three coaches would take time with individual players to show them what they wanted them to be doing. Carl Gettis and T.J. Moe were among those fielding punts.
Practice moved onto individual pass-rushing/blocking drills, and on the other end of the field, 7-on-7 passing drills.
Jack Meiners drew the unenviable assignment of trying to block Aldon Smith off the edge. Those didn't go well for Big Jack. On the opposite end of the line, Dan Hoch fared much better against Jacquies Smith. Jacquies got one sack, but Hoch won the majority of those match-ups. On the inside, Austin Wuebbels mostly prevailed over George White, although White did bull-rush past him a couple of times. Jimmy Burge used a bull-rush to best Tim Barnes a couple of times. Burge is one guy who looks like he has really improved his physical tools, bigger, stronger, faster. He mistreated a couple of different linemen today. Another guy whom it appears has done his work in the weight room is Brendan Donaldson. He went up against a number of second and third-string OLs today, and those were all pretty much just mis-matches. He spent a good part of that period in the backfield with the "QB".
The general impression I came away with today is that the OL is not as deep as the DL. Even with Hamilton out, causing Burge and Donaldson to move up, the back-up DLs were having the better of it. A couple of the young OLs did impress. Justin Britt did a nice job in his match-ups, against White and Bart Coslet. Mark Hill looked good too, in his battles with Marcus Malbrough, although the more experienced Malbrough won his share of those.
James Franklin threaded a really pretty pass in between defenders down the right sideline for a 30-yard completion to Drew O'Connell. Franklin hooked up with Jaleel Clark out in the right flat, then made a nice read, and hit Chris Willett in stride out along the right sideline.
Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Wes Kemp on a couple of nice passes. Kemp took in one down the left seam, and went to the house. Rolandis Woodland had a nice catch and run on a throw from Blaine Gabbert out on the right side. A little later, Blaine Gabbert found Woodland going over the middle.
Tyler Gabbert made several nice throws, although not every one was caught.
T.J. Moe has really made tremendous strides since last fall. He's in the running for most improved. He just snatches the ball, seemingly as second nature. He looks like he can do something with it, too.