Experience vs. inexperience
The linebacking corps is WAY more experienced heading into this season than last. Now, last year's figures don't include Darvin Ruise -- who was stuck in third-string purgatory at the beginning of fall camp -- but the difference is still stark. More than twice as many games, more than three times as many starts and about four times the tackles of the two-deep heading into last season.
That works the other way for the defensive line last year. It was actually a bit more experienced than the numbers indicate because Brantley lurked just off the two-deep while he regained the trust of the coaching staff.
The backbone of the team, from quarterback to interior line to defensive tackle to linebacker to (one of two) safety (positions), is wonderfully experienced. I say that's a good thing, even if the edges are inexperienced.
How are the tight ends doing?
So far this spring, two of Missouri's tight ends -- Sean Culkin and Clayton Echard -- have been slowed by minor injuries. That's given a chance for the two younger players, Jason Reese and Kendall Blanton, to see more time.
"It does give a guy like Kendall Blanton a chance to really get in there and get some quality reps," Henson said, "and get to develop. Also, you see where he's really at and how much he knows, and he gets to see where he's at. It's been a good experience for him, I think it's a good experience for Jason Reese, too.
If you have to suffer injuries in spring ball, you want them to a) be pretty temporary and b) happen to guys who have been around awhile and already proven themselves to some degree. Sean Culkin certainly isn't a finished product yet, but I would qualify his spring injury as a positive. Jason Reese has more to prove and learn than Culkin, and I'm really, really intrigued by Kendall Blanton, who was impressive enough last August that it sounded like he might not redshirt. If both Reese and Blanton come along nicely and Culkin and Echard are 100 percent come August, that leaves Mizzou in excellent shape, especially considering the diversity in the group -- Echard's blocking-first tendencies, Blanton's potential receiving capabilities, etc.
And the running backs?
PM: It doesn't seem like there's going to be any shortage of scholarship running backs on the roster this season. I know, ideally, anybody that's good enough to play, you guys will have play, but what's the ideal number you want in the rotation?
JONES: We always get four, five guys ready. During a game, we rotate three at best. Depending on how many carries and so on, two is an easier number, if you get my meaning. But three will help us get through the football season. Last year, we had Murph, we had Russell and they took a pounding. So we had to get three guys, and Ish Witter came in and it's up to us to have a guy, once he gets some experience, make sure he gets more experience. That happened last year with Ish, so we'll see where we are this year with out depth. As you said, there's going to be a lot of competition.
Assuming Russell Hansbrough is a clear No. 1 (he is) and Ish Witter is the obvious favorite for No. 2, the battle for third man in the rotation could be one of the most interesting in fall camp, when Chase Abbington, Marquise Doherty, and Ryan Williams join Tyler Hunt and Trevon Walters in the battle. That's a lot of upside fighting for just a few potential carries.
Hey there, Maty
Mauk acknowledged late last season that he was playing with a damaged throwing shoulder. He’s been reluctant to discuss the extent of the injury but recently described it as a mild sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder.
"It was painful," he said. "But that happens. It’s football. The main thing now is I’m 100 percent."
The rest of Mauk feels refreshed, too. He said he trimmed his body fat from 20 to 11 percent since season’s end.
"My body’s never felt this good," he said.
Mauk, whose 25 touchdown passes last year trailed only Prescott’s 27 among returning SEC passers, didn’t require surgery for the shoulder injury, only rest — mandated rest.
Maty feels confident?? You don't say. But Healthy, Confident Maty is certainly better than Dinged Up, Confident Maty.
Pro Day went well
Running back Marcus Murphy bumped up his bench-press reps (11 to 14) and nudged down his 40 time (4.61 to 4.51) from the combine on a hamstring that was a month healthier after he tweaked it just before the yearly scouting circus in Indianapolis.
The key for Murphy will still be his versatility, showing teams he can be a receiving weapon in the slot and serve as a return specialist. Former Missouri running back and Chiefs assistant special teams coach Brock Olivo spent some extra time with Murphy on punt returns.
BROCK O-LI-VO *clap clap clapclapclap* BROCK O-LI-VO *clap clap clapclapclap*
Former Missouri defensive lineman Lucas Vincent may hold a distinction that no other draft hopeful can boast: He passed a kidney stone twice in the span of 14 months.
The first instance came the week of the Mississippi game in November 2013. The most recent came in January. During a flight back home to Kansas City from Miami, no less.
"I mean, I knew what was coming, and it was still terrible," Vincent said. "Attempting to pass it on a plane, that was not fun at all. I think the people thought I was crazy. I got up and went to the bathroom about 20 times during the flight."
Vincent said he got down to 268 pounds during the throes of his battle with the stone. He had built back up to 284 by March 7, when he took part in a regional combine in Chicago.
Oh hey, there's already been a scrimmage
It's been a strange spring from an access standpoint. Media haven't had much to write about, and MUtigers.com hasn't posted nearly as many updates as in years past. Consequently, Mizzou had a scrimmage indoors, and we really didn't have much of a clue about it. Highlights here (as seen in Fullback's Keyon Dilosa piece):