An early morning thundershower forced Missouri indoors on Tuesday morning, where the Tigers practiced for over two hours in full pads. Enthusiasm ran high as players worked to improve and competed for jobs.
There is one new injury to report, the first injury to a player who is expected to play a significant role this season. Red-shirt freshman corner John Gibson, who is in a very close competition with fifth-year senior Randy Ponder for a starting job, wore a red jersey on Tuesday and sat out all drills. He wore a protective boot on one foot, and he has reportedly suffered an ankle sprain. No word on how long he is expected to be out. Sophomore receiver Wesley Leftwich wore a red jersey and sat out all drills, as well, while he recovers from a hamstring injury. A.J. Logan still wore a red pull-over, but he's getting closer to a return to full participation.
The Depth Chart is essentially unchanged, except for a position change for one freshman, and some shifting due to injuries. Xavier Smith participated fully, as he resumed working at cornerback with the third-team defense.
The indoor practice afforded an opportunity to closely observe the defensive linemen as Coach Kuligowski put them through their paces. After beginning camp as an outside linebacker, freshman Charles Harris was working with the defensive linemen on Tuesday. It appears to me that defensive end is a better fit for this athletic physical specimen.
This is a very impressive position group, with a number of very talented players. Coach Kul has an impressive group of veterans with which to work, including the chiseled Matt Hoch, and the very impressive trio of starting defensive ends, in Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, and Shane Ray. During fall camp, Ray has simply been a blur off the edge. The number of players in this position group has swollen considerably since this spring, with the addition of Missouri's six-member 2013 defensive line class, clearly the Tigers best recruiting class of defensive linemen of the Gary Pinkel era. All six of these freshmen defensive linemen are very physically gifted, and any one of them might have been considered the recruiting jewel of some of Missouri's previous classes of defensive linemen, but in this class, there is one jewel among the jewels. That would be the big man-child in the middle, Josh Augusta. When I watch this position group, he just jumps out, and my eyes are automatically drawn to watching the way that this extremely gifted young player moves, and performs on the field. I haven't seen anything yet that makes me think he isn't going to be an absolutely great player. He got rolled up on this morning, but he came away apparently unharmed.
If you could choose one of the three parts of your defense to be very good, I think most would choose the defensive line. And, it looks to me like Missouri’s defensive line is very good, which will definitely help the guys behind them.
Having a very good defensive line is also very good for the offensive linemen, in that every day they are afforded the opportunity to practice against quality opponents.
At the receiver position, two guys are making very strong impressions, and they're making strong bids to be included in the playing rotation, including Darius White and J’Mon Moore. These are essentially new very talented additions to what is already a strong receiver corps.
Coach Washington told me after practice on Tuesday that all of his receivers are continuing to improve.
“They’re better now than they were in the spring,” said Coach Washington. “That’s always encouraging! You see some signs that they’ve worked pretty good……………………………………….. I’m encouraged! I’m seeing progress.”
Speaking of White, he said, “It’s night and day from spring to now with Darius White. It’s night and day. He understands what to do, and he’s playing so much faster now. He’s so much more confident, now. It’s just night and day.”
When asked about Moore, Coach Washington smiled and said, “He’s got some talent! He’s got some talent!”
The more I see of Moore, the more confident I am in saying that the freshman is Missouri's second-most physically gifted receiver.
All five of Missouri’s QBs had another good practice on Tuesday. Each of them appear to be improving. They’ve certainly all improved since the spring, and they are all talented enough to develop into a quality trigger man.
I asked Coach Hill for his assessment of Missouri’s QBs.
“They’re all doing very well,” said Coach Hill.