Showers in the area on Thursday morning forced Missouri inside where the Tigers practiced for over two hours in helmets and shoulder pads. It’s getting a little physical, as everyone appears to be ready to progress to full pads on Friday. The emphasis in practice continues to be on individual fundamentals.
After practice, several of the Missouri assistant coaches stayed around for a few minutes to answer a few questions. The coaching staff is usually pretty tight-lipped this early in camp, so it’s notable when practice is described as being “crisp”.
There were no new injuries to report. And there’s still 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.
As I reported earlier this week, the competition between Corbin Berkstresser and Eddie Printz for the back-up job at QB is being described as “even” or “close”. Coach Hill weighed in on Thursday with a “pretty even”. He also said that both guys have gotten better.
As I wrote earlier this week, it wouldn’t surprise me if that competition continues for much of camp. I mean, it could even continue into the season, although I think the staff would like to have that settled by the end of the month. My expectation is that both guys could see some action in the season opener against South Dakota State.
My takeaway is that, since both guys are getting better, and that seems to be the reason it remains “close”, it’s a very positive situation. What also seems clear is that Maty Mauk has improved even more, and has separated himself from the others, and that’s a very positive situation, as well.
Coach Washington played his cards close to the vest on Thursday when asked about the freshmen receivers. He’s waiting to see more of them. I’m waiting to see more of them, as well. But, from what I have seen, I’m impressed with Nate Brown, but maybe even more impressed with Lawrence Lee. Lee might have to get bigger before the coaches are willing to put him out there, but he’s got more shake and bake than anyone I can remember at Missouri. Talk about quick-twitch muscle fibers!
But the real early story of camp at the receiver position is the presence of the 5th-year seniors and how good they look, including the new guy, part-time running back and part-time slot receiver, Marcus Murphy.
Then there’s also the results on the field of the extra work that Mauk and those veteran receivers put in over the summer. “Crisp”
Moving to the other side of the football, Coach Ford continues his departure from his usual reserved and conservative outlook on Missouri’s young corner prospects. I mean, I’ve never heard him speak this effusively about kids who just got here! On Thursday, when asked about the two newbies, Finis Stribling and Raymond Wingo, he once again went superlative, identifying them as “two of the best athletes we’ve had here.”
I point out that Coach Ford doesn’t usually go there because I think that does lend some perspective to the type of elite-level athletes that those two guys are, that Coach Ford has gone out of character with his remarks about those two kids.
What’s exciting about the corner position, and probably contributes to Coach Ford’s excitement about his charges, is that Missouri was already loaded with very, very talented young corners before those two kids got here.
On Thursday, Missouri Assistant Coach Alex Grinch, who coaches Missouri’s safeties, and who is another one who takes a show me approach with his young wards, and usually plays it close to the vest, expressed excitement over the early performance of his young safety prospect, Thomas Wilson.
Of course, Coach Grinch recruited Wilson, who could have just as well played offense at Missouri, so he knew what he was getting when he sold the staff on starting Wilson out at safety.
And on Thursday, Missouri Defensive Line Coach Craig Kuligowski, who has been besieged for months with interview requests and questions about Michael Sam, spoke briefly about how some of his more talented young guys are doing.
Asked about Harold Brantley, who is back up with the number two defense, Coach Kool was cautious, but optimistic that Brantley is on the right path, and that he will be able to include the very talented sophomore in the playing rotation at defensive tackle. For those of you who might be keeping score, that’s the head coach, and now his position coach, each saying that Brantley is doing well.
Regarding sophomore DT Josh Augusta, Coach Kool intimated that Augusta is bigger than a year ago, but also a lot stronger. The big soph has reshaped his body, and is beginning to replace body fat with muscle, but I’d say that’s a project that is still underway. I’m certain that Coach Pinkel can tell you exactly what Augusta weighed this morning, but that seems to be a closely-guarded state secret.
If Augusta was the 2013 defensive line recruit that Coach Kool wanted all along, and would have walked to Peoria to sign, Charles Harris was the one who fell into his lap.
Now a red-shirt freshman, and being counted on to be a part of the playing rotation at defensive end this season, Harris has gone from under-the-radar recruit to making a big early impression on everyone associated with the Missouri program. As I reported earlier this week, veteran players have told me that they’ve never seen anyone like Harris. They cite his nearly freakish athleticism for sure, but it’s his drive, his motor, and his work ethic that they all rave about.
As a result, Harris has progressed at a rate that has his veteran teammates and the coaching staff wide-eyed.
“He looks like a player that’s been out there (on the practice field) for four years,’ explained Coach Kool, speaking of Harris.
As I’ve previously written, in my opinion, one of the keys to Missouri’s season is the performance of Harris and fellow red-shirt freshman defensive end, Marcus Loud. Their ability to sustain a high level of play at that position in a time share with Shane Ray and Markus Golden will have a large bearing on just how good the Missouri defense will be. From what I can tell, Harris is, at present, well ahead of Loud in his development as a player. But if Loud is, as one veteran player described him, reminiscent of a “young Kony Ealy”, then that should be good enough to give the Tigers the rotation they need at defensive end to once again wreak havoc up front.