On Wednesday morning, the Missouri Tigers practiced on the Kadlec Athletic Fields for over two hours in helmets and shoulder pads. The sky was overcast, which kept it relatively cool, but also muggy. The emphasis in practice continues to be on individual fundamentals.
After practice, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about how practice is going, and he also talked some about his team.
“It was a good practice,” said Coach Pinkel. “We had shoulder pads on for the first time. It allows you in some of your drill work to be a little bit more aggressive, and hit a little bit more, in terms of that. Still, as far as playing the ball live, or what we call thudding, where you actually put your shoulder pads on a running back or receiver, still we don’t do that yet, until we get full pads. A lot of good things. You know, we’re a pretty healthy team right now. And hopefully, we can continue to get better.”
There’s nothing new on the status of the two freshmen players who have yet to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, Tavon Ross and Walter Brady. It’s hoped that each of them will soon be cleared to practice.
Coach Pinkel called sophomore LB Donavin Newsom “a really high-level athlete”.
“You know, he played last year on special teams,” said Coach Pinkel, speaking of Newsom. “He’s a very, very athletic linebacker. He’s got size. He weighs about 232. And, he’s very talented. I was just talking to the team. Players that play at a high level, they don’t ever think on the field. They’re reacting. It’s all reacting. And, Donavin is kind of getting into that category. You know, he’s to the point where he’s figuring that out right now. It’s a very difficult position to play, but we’re pleased with his progress.”
Coach Pinkel said that as a group, this may be as athletic a group of linebackers as he’s had. He also said that Coach Steckel does a good job of moving the young guys around so that they learn more than one position, and that helps the staff to be able to put their best LBs on the field, whether in their base defense or in the nickel.
Among other things, Coach Pinkel was asked about the evaluation of prospects?
“In our evaluation system, we certainly have certain things we look for,” replied Coach Pinkel. “You know, size potential, speed potential, quickness potential, the biggest thing is getting as athletic players as you can get. I’m not real concerned about how good of football players they are. We’re more concerned about them having the skills and the ability level that we can coach them up. We can coach them. We can get them stronger, faster, and quicker. But we can’t make a 5.2 guy a 4.6 guy. You can’t do it. So that’s all in our evaluation, and evaluating vertical jump, and explosive(ness), standing long jump. And those things help determine speed potential, and quickness potential. So, (it’s) all of those things. We try to get them as athletic as we can. That’s basically what we try to do.”
Coach Pinkel also shed some light on the role that each position coach plays in the evaluation process.
“The position coach has their vote, the same vote as anybody else,” explained Coach Pinkel. “But their opinion, obviously, has a lot to do with everybody’s opinion. Everybody’s watched film on these guys when we vote on them. But it’s very important at every position that the position coach, you know, when he makes recommendations to the entire staff, he’s got to be on.”
“If we stay healthy, everything’s fine,” said Coach Pinkel. “But all of a sudden, if you’ve got to start flipping people………………………………… Certainly, one of them, we need to get ready to play. And we might be able to get two of them ready to play.”
Coach Pinkel said that “I’m real pleased” with the progress of the back-up defensive ends, red-shirt freshmen Charles Harris and Marcus Loud. One veteran player told me that he hasn’t seen anyone like Harris. He cited the 6’4” 248-pound Harris’ work ethic as off the charts, along with his rate of progress. He also compared Loud to a young Kony Ealy.
Coach Pinkel talked about some of the competition for positions.
“It’s a constant evaluation of who’s getting themselves ready to play,” explained Coach Pinkel. “We’re bringing guys around. We’re constantly pushing them all of the time. It makes our team better.”
Coach Pinkel talked about sophomore tight end Sean Culkin, one of the younger starters on the offensive side of the football.
“He’s doing well,” said Coach Pinkel, speaking of Culkin. “He’s worked hard. He’s doing a pretty good job.”
Coach Pinkel said that they’re evaluating several options within the offense, ways of utilizing Murphy and the tight ends, as well as the tailbacks and wide receivers.
“There’s a lot of combinations,” said Coach Pinkel. “We’re kind of brainstorming, and looking at the big picture”.