Stretching before practice. (Photo by Karen Mitchell)
The Tigers donned full pads for the first time on Monday and the defense capitalized. With the pads come the scoring competition between offense and defense. If the defense stops the offense for a two yard gain on a hypothetical third down and three, for example, then the defense takes that play. Each side wins a certain number of plays per period, and whichever side wins the most periods wins for the day. The defense took day one thanks in part to a stingy defense near the goal line, although the third and fourth string offense played most of that final series.
- Junior center Travis Ruth is the only offensive lineman who didn’t start last year, filling the void left by center Tim Barnes. His fellow linemen cheered him on as Ruth fared well against teammates from the sufficiently stacked defensive line unit in one-on-one drills.
- James Franklin’s timing with his receivers is improving, but he still has a ways to go if Mizzou expects to be an elite team. Before they make the catch, his receivers still have had to slow down or leave their feet more often than they probably should. Naturally the projected starter is still great on his feet. He looked particularly savvy when he ran for a first down on a hypothetical third and seven. It’s a situation under which Franklin thrived in limited action last season: the team converted four times out of four from that distance or longer with No. 1 under center.
- Returning starting running back De’Vion Moore looked like the best tailback on the field on day one of full pads. With reports that Missouri may be looking to ditch the running back by committee approach, Moore’s progress will be monitored closely. He’s the best all-around back in practice despite running a tick slower than juniors Kendial Lawrence or Jared Culver, sophomore Henry Josey or redshirt freshman Greg White. Although Mizzou does not have a consistent, bonafide game changer at that position, that’s not typically a total necessity in this Big 12 or Gary Pinkel’s spread offense–Kansas State has an elite running back (with questionable mental fortitude) in redshirt sophomore Bryce Brown, but our Darren Hellwege picks them to pick near-last or last in the Big 12. Colorado also had an elite running back in Darrell Scott in 2008, but that under-stocked team went 5-7 on the year.
- The defensive lineman roared when Terrell Resonno leveled redshirt freshman Robert Luce in drills. Luce is third on the depth chart at center, behind Travis Ruth and redshirt freshman Mitch Morse.
- With RB Marcus Murphy out for the season with an injury redshirt (torn labrum), RB Kendial Lawrence, RB Henry Josey, WR T.J. Moe and redshirt freshman WR Jimmie Hunt returned kicks and punts. If Hunt can consistently catch the ball, he may have the edge over Lawrence and Moe, who both stand to see a lot of time on offense. Hunt has the speed (4.45 second time in the 40 yard dash according to Rivals.com) and the moves to be an effective returner. If he can see the field well and spot open running lanes at full speed, he could be a legitimate threat. Moe continued to excel as he did last season, and Lawrence made it through traffic as well–it will certainly be an interesting competition to watch.
- Projected starting DE Brad Madison, a redshirt junior, showed off his occasionally unstoppable spin move, “sacking” QB James Franklin when the first units went head-to-head. The effectiveness of Brad Madison’s trademark evasive maneuver is well-documented (see: three sacks against Texas A&M in 2010), but in order to maximize the spin’s effectiveness, Madison must hone his ability to bullrush—where the defender attacks the offensive lineman head-on and tries to power through him into the backfield. He has improved that skill-set since last season, but by how much is hard to say after only one day of practicing in full pads.
- Corbin Berkstresser looked sharp again, as if wearing hip and thigh pads would really make a difference in his ability to throw. He found back-up WR L’Damian Washington in space 20 yards out from the goal line. Like Franklin, not all of his throws were on target, though he has done a better job than the starter of hitting his receivers in stride. But make no doubt about it–James Franklin is the clear-cut starter this year. The coaches believe he gives the team the best chance to win, and Pinkel is very unlikely to allow a freshman to start. Berkstresser has been running the second team offense, even though the depth chart released by the team lists only Franklin, sophomore Ashton Glazer and senior Jimmy Costello at quarterback.
- Sheldon Richardson is in Columbia and reportedly hanging out with the team, but he has yet to see the field. The Tigers await NCAA clearance for the high-profile recruit from Gateway Tech High School from St. Louis.
The team held only one practice on Monday, with a day’s worth of meetings in place of the usual afternoon practice, according to coach Gary Pinkel. The Tigers resume two-a-days tomorrow at 7:15 and 3:45.