The word I'd used to describe the first practice under Barry Odom would be "tempo". Things moved quickly for the approximately 45 minutes we were able to observe, drills lasting around five minutes before shifting to the next station and a sense of urgency not just during the play but getting set before the snap.
Here are my five key takeaways from the first day of Mizzou's Spring Practice.
Harold Brantley is back
Proof that Harold Brantley returned to Missouri's practice. pic.twitter.com/IKpEhTYVrE— Tod Palmer (@todpalmer) March 9, 2016
Barry Odom seemed optimistic about Brantley's return saying,
"Brantley got some work today, which was awesome to see just from a personal standpoint to see where he was last June. There were questions whether or not he was ever going to get out of the hospital. To see the progress he, with Rex Sharp and Pat Smith, have made, I’m proud of the kid and I’m proud of what the training staff and medical staff has done for him."
Cam Hilton is a free safety
Literally. He's the only defensive back listed as a "FS" on the roster media was given at the start of practice yesterday.
Not only is the true sophomore moving from slot receiver back to safety, he's starting alongside Anthony Sherrils. Both Odom and Cross made it clear this was because the depth chart at wide receiver was crowded at the safety group was relatively thin and Hilton was on board for what was best for the team.
Mizzou DC DeMontie Cross says Cam Hilton is already working with the starters at safety— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 9, 2016
Marquise Doherty, who many thought could split time between running back or safety, was not at practice because Mizzou baseball had a game Tuesday and it sounds like he'll be spending the majority of his time on the baseball diamond this spring.
Drew Lock and Marvin Zanders are splitting reps
Josh Heupel was asked about the quarterback competition and stated that although one guy (read: Drew Lock) may be getting first team reps today, they were going to evaluate every practice and last year didn't matter. When asked about the competition, both Lock and Zanders echoed Heupel. Zanders was asked if there was any time during the past year he considered transferring and he hesitated before admitting there was a bit where he considered his options but followed it up with "I'm from Florida so I like to compete."
Zanders was also asked about meeting with Spike Lee, who was on campus doing an ESPN documentary about the Concerned Student 1950 protests.
Additionally, Drew Lock's Chipotle addiction is serving him well.
Drew Lock put on about 15-20 pounds in the offseason. He weighed in at 220 today. Says that's where the coaching staff wants him. #Mizzou— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) March 9, 2016
The offensive line got some huge additions
Tyler Howell is listed at 6 foot 8 inches but you don't realize how big that is until you see him on the field.
I walked right next to him and it's impressive even compared to the other massive human beings he's competing with. He's reportedly still dealing with rustiness from having had to sit out of football for a while but I believe he's already in contention to secure that left tackle position.
The other bit of good news is 4 star offensive lineman Andy Bauer, a redshirt sophomore who's struggled with a hip injury since high school, was out there competing.
I talked a bit about both Howell and Bauer in yesterday's Offensive Line Spring Preview and had Howell starting at left tackle with Bauer backing up Nate Crawford at left guard and I stand by those predictions.
Terry Beckner Jr. and Tavon Ross expected back after Spring Break
Terry Beckner Jr. who suffered a right ACL injury on the first play against BYU, had surgery a few weeks ago and was held out of drills during the first day of practice. Just from what I saw he appeared a bit ginger but in good shape to return and that was confirmed by Chad Moller who relayed to us that Rex Sharp expected both Beckner and Ross to return after Spring Break.
Here's Tavon Ross running stairs during practice
Odom also passed along that Charles Harris was wearing a red pullover jersey at the end of practice because he'd undergone shoulder surgery in the offseason. Slot receiver Johnathan Johnson also finished practice in a red pullover and Odom couldn't confirm what injured he'd sustained only saying that it'd happened during that day.
- Barry Odom told the assembled media he was going to be directly involved with coaching special teams saying, "After Week 1, if we look really crappy on special teams, then I didn’t do a very good job."
- It sounds like Joey Burkett is getting the chance to earn that weakside linebacker spot vacated by Kentrell Brothers but know that Brandon Lee is hot on his tail.
- Michael Scherer, when asked about last year's defense, "We talk a lot about how last year we were No. 5 in the country, but that got us five wins and on the couch in January. That’s not where we want to be. We want to have a defense that can win us games if we need to."
Brandon Lee on the DeMontie Cross defense: "It’s completely different. It’s a whole nother language. As far as I know, nothing’s the same."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) March 9, 2016
- Chris Black looks like a natural in the slot; Justin Smith is at least 6'6 and I hereby dub him "Godzilla" since the last one never really liked the nickname; DeMontie Cross is a stickler for perfection and you can hear it on every play; Bud Sasser, Shane Ray and Kentrell Brothers were all in attendance and Ray appeared to be coaching Brothers on some combine-like drills.