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Citrus Bowl practice reports: Stec prepares for finale, Ray talks mentorship

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Dave Steckel prepares to coach his final game as Missouri's defensive coordinator, Shane Ray talks about mentorship and his incredible 2014 season, and Missouri wraps up its final pre-Citrus Bowl practice.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Practice is done in Orlando. Now there's nothing left but a game and a Stec goodbye.

MUTIGERS.COM: Citrus Bowl Practice Report: Final Practice, Press Conference

Sophomore QB Maty Mauk

On being ready to play the game after eight days in Orlando...

"For sure. The main purpose we came down here for is to win this football game. Now we are in that 48-hour period where we are locked in and focused up. We understand that we came down here to have fun, we had fun and that stuff is over with. It's the lock-down period and we have to make sure we come out and play our best football game."

On if being an Ohio native makes it special to be playing a Big Ten school...

"I mean I guess so. That never rally has a factor on what I do. The main thing is that it is another opportunity to go out there and play the game that you love. We have and a great week of practice. We are ready. We are going to execute what we need to and now it just comes down the last 48 hours to really focus up. Look at film and play the best game of the year and send these guys off right."

On how this game can be a springboard for him...

"I am not focused on next year at all by any means, but it is definitely a stepping stone for me. It is another opportunity like I said. Every day I am going to do whatever I have to do to get better. That's the good thing - I have coaches that aren't going to let me slack off and are always going to be on me. Coach Henson is always in my ear. Coach Hill is always in my ear. It's not tear me down or anything, it's to make me better. For me, I need to come out here and play my best game and move into the spring and continue to get better so we can continue this. We have two more years to build. There is no time to take off, we just need to keep getting better."

The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri Notes: The "Sayonara Stec" edition

A reporter addressed him as "Dave," and Steckel turned around in his seat and looked behind him, as if searching for a mythical "Dave" until the reporter changed course and called him "Coach Stec."

Then he faced forward. Henson and Maty Mauk smiled and shared a knowing eye roll at that one.

Depth and honesty.

Colleague Dave Matter gave Steckel the floor to say anything he wanted with the last question of the presser.

"I'm not a very emotional person but, unbeknownst to you people in the media, I really don't have a problem with you. Even though you might think I do. I appreciate your job and what you have to do. But my whole focus and my life is about my players.

"And I'm going to miss them."

With that, Steckel cut himself off before he choked up, then leaned to his left to share a hug with Shane Ray.

Then he accused us of eating all the hot wings. Oh well.

The Trib: Citrus Bowl pits Golden against former Hutchinson roommate Campbell

Post-Dispatch: Ray reflects on Mizzou career
PowerMizzou: Stay or go?
Orlando Sentinel: Missouri's Shane Ray eager to live up to legacy of strong d-linemen, top Minnesota

Ray hopes to pass along the lessons of hard work to younger players that surround him.

"I was fortunate to have a lot of guys in that room to show me — let's run, let's do extra drills and always critiquing me," said Ray. "Like me and Charles Harris's relationship — the kid is like a sponge. He'll see me do something and be like, 'Hey, man. How many steps did you take? Or how did you do that?' Stuff like that helps you build your own game."

The decision whether Ray's game takes him to the NFL or he decides to return to Missouri for his senior season will have to wait. The star lineman says he won't make a call on his future until after the bowl game.

"As awesome as the NFL sounds, that's just something I don't want to think about to take away from my focus, which is being the best I can be against Minnesota," he said.

Post-Dispatch: Henson, Steckel talk Citrus Bowl
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou's Steckel focused on finale

After accepting the Missouri State job two weeks ago, Steckel spent his daylight hours on preparations for the bowl game. In the evenings, he focused on his next job and building his Missouri State coaching staff. Once MU’s contingent arrived in Orlando on Dec. 22, Steckel shifted back to all Mizzou, all the time. The 57-year-old career assistant hasn’t mellowed a bit in his final practices, defensive end Shane Ray said.

"Coach Steck doesn’t change," the junior All-American said. "He stays on us, demands the same kind of intensity and effort from us every day at practice. … That’s just why he commands so much respect from all the defensive guys because we know when it’s time to go in and work."

The Missourian: Theme parks, wings and practice: What the MU football team has been up to in Orlando
The Missourian: Citrus Bowl will mark end of eras for Missouri, Minnesota football
The Missourian: Citrus Bowl preview: Four notes about the Minnesota Golden Gophers