2013 Missouri spring game: Sunshine, a brisk pace, and not a lot of answers

Henry Josey! It's Henry Josey! - Bill Carter

We'll have extended thoughts about what we saw yesterday throughout both the week and the rest of the offseason (in the Walkthroughs series). And we'll have a piece on the quarterbacks coming up either later today or tomorrow. For now, though, here are a few initial reactions from Saturday's 2013 Missouri Black & Gold game.

1. I'll say this much: Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser combining for four picks was pretty awful, but three of them (not including Matt Hoch's diving, fat guy INT) were at least partially the result of strong coverage from one of Missouri's young CBs. Xavier Smith showed good ball skills in going up and reeling in a bit of a duck from Mauk, then batted a ball away from a walk-on receiver later on. David Johnson, winner of the Most Improved DB award, undercut an intermediate pass from Berkstresser. And John Gibson did a lovely job stepping in front of a Mauk pass right after Smith's INT of Mauk. The two young QBs were unimpressive yesterday, but it wasn't entirely on them. Throw in Randy Ponder's swallowing of a quick pass to Darius White (I think), and you've got four CBs looking good opposite E.J. Gaines. That was one of the biggest question marks for me heading into the spring, and I left the stadium encouraged.

2. One barely noticed the offensive line at all. The rushing stats show that the OL didn't get a huge advantage on the DL at times (while there were a few nice runs, RBs were having to make moves in the backfield quite a bit), but since that was Mizzou's DL, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The blocking was decent, and while there were a couple of false starts (one from Mitch Morse, one from one of the Mitch Halls, don't ask me which one), there were no holds or egregious errors. And the snaps, from both Evan Boehm and Brad McNulty, were fine.

3. Dorial Green-Beckham really could become an ace-in-the-hole this year. For the most part, he lined up isolated and wide left, and Missouri is pretty clearly going to try to get single coverage on him as much as possible. And when they get that, he's going to have quite a few easy pitch-and-catch opportunities. Mizzou quarterbacks didn't go to him a lot yesterday, but part of that is because the first-string WRs really weren't on the field much after the first quarter (which went by in a blink). His other scrimmage stats, along with his lovely catch-and-run (highlight below), showed that he was where he needed to be.

4. Michael Sam was everywhere. I'd love to think of him as a "15 tackles for loss" kind of guy, but I don't think he is; he's more like a better Stryker Sulak, a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who happens to line up with his hand on the ground. Kony Ealy will be the TFLs guy for the most part, but Michael Sam is Missouri's best overall defensive end.

5. Honestly? It might have been good that Maty Mauk struggled. He is a work in progress, and tamping down the hype from a level that is more attainable for a redshirt freshman might make for a more realistic offseason. That said, he didn't play as poorly as his stats below suggested. The one-hand touch rule hurt him quite a bit -- for the most part, the "sacks" against him probably wouldn't have been real sacks (though at the same time, as we see from the Missourian article below, a "hurry" against him might have been a sack in a real game), and they put him into second- and third-and-long situations. Plus, a lot of his completions were of the "throwaway" variety. Still ... he was not very good. And that's okay for now.

6. The offense did maintain a pretty brisk pace, especially after decent runs. That is the perfect time to speed things up and get the defense on its heels.

7: Henry Josey!

MUtigers.com: Starters Win Spring Game, 21-14

The Mizzou One defense did not allow a first down for most of the first half and junior TB Henry Josey knotted the game at 14-14 with a one-yard run late in the second quarter. A crowd of 18,384 saw Josey earn his first playing time since the 2011 season when he suffered a major knee injury in a win over Texas. Josey finished the game carrying eight times for 13 yards.

The second half was a defensive stalemate until the final minutes, when Mizzou One did earn the win late on a three-yard rush from redshirt freshman TB Andrew Stevens. Freshmen signal callers Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz combined to lead the late scoring drive and the pair combined to complete their final six throws (three apiece) for 52 yards.

Another notable performance for Missouri came from sophomore WR Dorial Green-Beckham. The Springfield, Mo. native caught three passes for 49 yards, including a 35-yard catch and run down the sideline.

Defensively, senior DE Michael Sam closed out a strong spring camp, and had four tackles, including two sacks on the day. Sophomore CB Xavier Smith had three tackles, an interception and a pass broken up, while junior DT Matt Hoch had three stops and an acrobatic interception while falling onto his back after leaped to grab a pass that he had deflected at the line of scrimmage.

MUtigers.com: Black & Gold Game Quotes

On sophomore Russell Hansbrough's performance ...
"Russell [Hansbrough] really looked good today. There's a lot of competition in that position; there's a lot of competition all over the place. Surely Russell has some great quicks; he's explosive. He's also at a position where there's depth but with the depth we have at tailback, if you can stand out, that's certainly good."

On how he evaluates this game and the spring as a whole...
"We evaluate this game, but we also include the other fourteen practices. What we do after this game is, by Monday, we set the depth going into August and then you start again and all of the competition in every position is still open. That's how we do things; that's how we've always done it and I think there's going to be a lot of competition well into the middle of August."

The Trib (Dave Matter): Missouri Black & Gold Game Stats

PASSING

Maty Mauk 6 of 17, 72 yards, 2 INTs (long 26 yards)
Corbin Berkstresser 9 of 18, 93 yards, 2 INTS (35)
Trent Hosick 3 of 5, 23 yards (12)
James Franklin 9 of 15, 80 yards (30)
Eddie Printz 4 of 6, 32 yards (17)

The Trib (Dave Matter): Missouri's Most Improved spring awards

The Missourian: Missouri defense stays step ahead of offense in Black & Gold game

When Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy broke through the offensive line in the first half of Saturday’s annual Black and Gold scrimmage game, his instincts were working against him.

Ealy ripped through his block and was ready to put quarterback Maty Mauk on his back, but the rules of the Tigers' scrimmage prevent hits on the quarterback. Instead, the defense only needed to lay a single hand on the passer to get credit for a sack.

While the rule change would seem to benefit the pass rushers, Ealy insists it was difficult to hold back once he was free in the backfield. As a result, the 260-pound pass rusher failed to get a hand on Mauk before his pass fluttered away and was credited only with a quarterback hurry.

"Most people think it’s easier, but I don’t think so," Ealy said, shaking his head. "I hate when we have to touch him down. I’d rather just go ahead and smash the quarterback."

KC Star: Plenty of battles for most-improved players

The list goes as follows: Shane Ray (defensive line), Connor McGovern (offensive line), Dorial Green-Beckham and Levi Copelin (receiver), Kentrell Brothers (linebacker), Russell Hansbrough (running back), Ian Simon (safety), Maty Mauk (quarterback), David Johnson (cornerback), Jake Hurrell (special teams).

"When we decide the most improved, generally what happens is you bring up a player … and generally it’s pretty easy," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "But this year is one of those years where at almost every position, there are two or three players (we talked about). That means you’ve got a lot of players getting better, showing themselves in a good way."

PowerMizzou: Black and Gold Notebook

The empty backfield sets of a year ago were almost entirely absent. While there were no under-center, I-formation plays and the Tigers were still in the four-wide spread attack at the one-yard line, Henson was asked about a running game that appeared to be more quick-hitting than in the past.

"Did you really feel that way? I'm wondering what people thought," Henson said. "It's by design that way so I hope it looks that way. I mean, that's the way it's supposed to look. We're trying to get downhill a little bit more and get north and south a little bit more."

The Tiger players all said they had a good feel for changes Henson was implementing.

"We're working on the offense and pushing tempo mainly," Marcus Murphy said. "I think we're grasping that pretty good. We've done good all spring. It's just the point of coming in and executing to the best of our ability."

"We made strides, I think," Marcus Lucas said. "Getting just the pace down and the new things that we're trying to implement, we're doing a good job of picking the new stuff up and trying to transition into the next season."

PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Black & Gold Game

Fox Sports MW: Can Mizzou's Green-Beckham justify the hype?

On Saturday, he showed another glimpse of greatness. During Missouri's annual Black and Gold spring scrimmage, the lanky receiver ran a dig route, caught the ball and gracefully sprinted 35 yards — the longest reception of the day.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable with the game," Green-Beckham said after it was over. "This upcoming season, a lot of that is going to show."

Maybe Green-Beckham is good, but not great. Maybe he is great, but not as as great as our imaginations led us to believe. Or, maybe he will surpass even the loftiest expectations.

Will the kid live up to the hype?

An answer should come this year.

KBIA Sports: Mizzou football concludes spring practices with Black & Gold Game

Mizzou Network (YouTube): 2013 Black & Gold Game Highlights

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Black and Gold Game Pinkel Interview

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Spring Game 1st Qtr- Marcus Murphy TD - YouTube

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Spring Game 2nd Qtr- DGB Catch & Run

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Spring Game 2nd Qtr- Xavier Smith Interception

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Spring Game 2nd Qtr- Russell Hansbrough 29 yard run

Mizzou Network (YouTube): Faurot Field East-Side Groundbreaking

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