When you read practice reports for long enough, you yearn for balance. You want to see examples of offensive players making great plays ... but not too many great plays. You want to see the defense dominating ... for a while. You want a give and take. Not that it actually means anything down the line, but it does appear that both units have shared the spotlight so far this spring.
Senior QB James Franklin had a productive day Thursday, as the top three Tiger quarterbacks continued to share snaps with the first three units. Franklin made the most of his chances, as he had four straight completions at one point with the #1 offense going against the #1 defense. He first hit senior WR Marcus Lucas for an 8-yard gain on a nicely-timed out route, which was followed by a connection with freshman TE Sean Culkin for a gain of 6 yards. Franklin and junior WR Bud Sasser hooked up for a 7-yard gain on a quick slant, and then Franklin hit Lucas again for a 15-yard completion, zipping the pass perfectly into Lucas' hands near the sidelines. On the play, sophomore TB Russell Hansbrough did a great job of protecting his quarterback on a chip block to stymie a blitzing defender.
On the final play of that series, senior CB E.J. Gaines came off the edge and made an all-star play when he dumped Hansbrough for a short loss. Gaines came off his coverage duties to blitz, and despite getting picked up by a blocker on the edge, he strung the block out and shed it just in time to upend Hansbrough for a loss of 2 yards.
Tight ends Eric Waters and Sean Culkin, the only scholarship players at the position, are putting their hand on the turf more often. Henson has spent the bulk of his career coaching tight ends and he's taken over the position this year. It's no secret the Tigers are using more formations with the tight end attached to the line of scrimmage in a three-point stance.
"The thing I think a tight end, a bigger guy, can bring an advantage to you is if he has the ability, like an Eric Waters or a Sean Culkin, to split out and make some plays in the passing game," he said. "They also bring a certain versatility to your offense when they do attach, if they can do some blocking things on the line of scrimmage. Really, the receiving things, in my opinion, those things come easy to those guys. They look pretty good doing it. The blocking part, the end of the line part of it, that's what we're really working on."
"You can see the ability for us to involve them the way we want to involve them," he said. "When you look down the road — it's not there yet by any means — but you can see it happening."
- I spent some time after practice talking with new first-string right guard Connor McGovern. McGovern was moved atop the depth chart following spring break, and it's his first big move up that ladder since he arrived on campus in 2011. McGovern told me his biggest setback was tearing his labrum late in his freshman year. He had to miss all of spring ball in 2012, and he said that was impeded his progress, especially coming from South Dakota where he outweighed opponents by 100 pounds in high school. I'll have more on McGovern later, but he's one to watch now that he's healthy and experienced.
-- New first-string center Evan Boehm said he's adapting well to his current position, but he's having the same problem a lot of quarterbacks have: He has to work on shaking off bad plays. Right now, Boehm said he'll have five good snaps in a row, and then short his sixth one. He said he's too focused on those bad snaps. I'll have a full story on Boehm later.
Leadership ... tight ends with hands on the ground ... an improved offensive line ... a Henry Josey feature ... man, this is like Mizzou Practice Reports for the Soul or something...