Head Coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with what he saw at the beginning of his 13th spring camp at Mizzou.
"Overall it was a really good day, obviously we just had helmets on for NCAA rules, and it will be the same on Thursday," he said. "Just a high level of energy and excitement to get back out here again, it's been awhile, and I thought the team worked well. It's always about fundamentals, but certainly in practices like this where you don't have a lot of competitive drills because you don't have full pads on, it's real important, the details of their position and the fundamentals," he said.
Without full contact scrimmaging, the day focused mostly on position drills and a lot of one-on-one pass rush drills between the offensive and defensive lines. A highlight during 7-on-7 passing drills included QB Maty Mauk hooking up with WR Dorial Green-Beckham on a nice timing route over the middle for a gain of around 10 yards, until CB David Johnson swatted the ball loose from behind. Fellow CB Xavier Smith pounced on the ball for a takeaway by the defense.
The only other players who wore red pullovers for injuries during the open portion of practice—the first 45 minutes—were defensive tackles Matt Hoch and Harold Brantley. Pinkel has said the staff evaluated its training and practice regimens in regards to last year's flood of injuries.
"We've done a lot of analysis here," he said. "Last year we lost half our offensive linemen, which is unheard of. And then our quarterback problems we had injury-wise. But the rest of our team was as healthy as can be. It's not like we're doing things wrong. We look at all those things. We have to be more lucky, I think. I really think that's what it is. I'm telling the players, attitude-wise, just stay healthy. Hopefully they listen to me."
There's plenty of chatter about redshirt freshman Sean Culkin becoming the next break-out star at tight end for the Tigers. He looks the part, that much is certain. He made a few leaping grabs during passing drills, but take everything with a grain of salt, as we're only able to see the offense go up against air during the open period.
RB Henry Josey and LT Justin Britt did not wear red jerseys, and appeared to be full-go for the workout. Josey's return has been well-documented, although he's running third-team behind Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. However, Gary Pinkel said he's cleared for all drills this spring.
That doesn't mean there won't be an acclimation period for the former All-Big 12 running back.
"I think it's going to be a little psychological with him," Pinkel said. "Each practice is. He went through the winter conditioning, and did a great job with that....
"No one has any idea what he's gone through and all the work he's gone through, and his determination. What a story. He'll get the pads on, Friday will be the first time with full pads, and he'll also go through those moments where you earn that trust back. That's typical of anybody that comes off of any surgery like that."
Pinkel says Henry Josey is cleared to participate in all drills this spring.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 12, 2013
Unless something changes, DT Harold Brantley is the only Mizzou player beginning practice in a red pullover. That includes Josey and Britt.— Pete Scantlebury (@PeteScantlebury) March 12, 2013
#Mizzou QB James Franklin talked at length today about being more of a leader. Seems energized by having to win his old job back.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 12, 2013
James Franklin, Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk all got first team reps at QB at #Mizzou's first spring practice— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) March 13, 2013
Will write about later, but Franklin talked about sticking up for embattled point guard Phil Pressey on Twitter. Said he can relate to PP— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 12, 2013
L'Damian Washington on James Franklin: "I told him the only thing that matters is what you think about yourself."— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) March 13, 2013
Pinkel on allowing music for warmups. "As long as it's clean I don't care. ... I just want some Earth, Wind & Fire."— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 12, 2013
Gary Pinkel said Justin Britt and Henry Josey were ready to practice without restriction for #Mizzou— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) March 13, 2013
Words can't even describe how happy I am 4 my brother @h_josey20 it's been a long time coming but he's back on the field ready 2 ball out!!!— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) March 13, 2013