Injuries in the preseason can often determine how much success teams can have in the regular season. And two-a-day practices in the hot sun with pads smacking up against your teammates’ pads can lead to an injury bug epidemic.
Missouri (for the most part) has a majority of what are perceived to be key players healthy at this moment. But a few players have been dealing with relatively minor issues:
- TE Sean Culkin was out Monday with a "mild sprain of the MCL" of his left knee.
- LB Terez Hall was out after having a tooth pulled.
- OL Darvis Holmes was out with a left shoulder sprain.
- CB TJ Warren and WR Chris Black were limited by hamstring injuries.
- WR Justin Smith and OL AJ Harris were cleared to take part in drills.
Of those on the list, Culkin looks to be the most concerning, but he said Monday morning that everything was OK. "I’m good," Culkin said. "I feel good."
Black and Warren were starters in the Black & Gold spring game in April and figure to be key contributors, if not full-time starters, once the season comes around. They appear to be making progress.
Barry Odom didn’t sound concerned about the possibility of injuries to Black and Culkin lingering into the season.
"If we we’re in game week, we’d feel very confident (Culkin) would play on Saturday," Odom said. "All-in-all, pretty healthy after Saturday."
On Saturday, it was reported that running back Trevon Walters had been arrested. Odom announced that Walters will no longer be with the program.
"I met with Trevon this morning, and due to team rules and team policies, he’s been dismissed from the program," Odom said.
On a more positive note, some word got out about Saturday’s team scrimmage. Graduate transfer Alex Ross continues to make plays. His bigger stature has made him difficult to bring down, and he adds a much-needed home-run threat. He is evidently also pretty good at telling stories.
"He was telling us a story the other night about how he saw a demon one time," Michael Scherer said. "First he’s scared of the demon, then the demon came flying up to him and he smacked him away.
"I called BS on it pretty quick, but he had the other guys going. He keeps the mood light around here and around this time, which is not easy to do."
One player that gets brought up in nearly every interview is freshman Dimetrious "K-9" Mason. The Georgia native possess elite speed, and has been really hard to catch once he gets his hands on the ball. Missouri players were impressed with the abilities he showed on Saturday.
"Very fast, catch-it-and-get-up-field guy -- that’s exactly what he did," senior Aarion Penton said. "I think he caught like a slant and took it quite a few yards."
Black sees a lot of himself in Mason and has been a mentor to him in the short time that Mason has been on campus.
"He reminds me of myself a lot when I was a freshman -- kind of hard on himself," Black said. "So I always talk to him and just tell him to go and have fun.
The offensive line
No matter how much the skill players continue to progress and impress, the success of this year’s team will likely come down to the play of both lines. It’s no secret that the defensive line was light years ahead of the offensive line last year, but the O-line could be on the verge of closing the gap – if they have anything to say about it.
"I see more fire in their eyes; they’re finishing through the whistle," defensive lineman Rickey Hatley said. "They come off the ball way harder. They finish through the whistle. That’s why there’s a lot of fights going on because we didn’t expect it from them.
"It’s a big difference. Big change from the offensive line."
Scherer confirmed what Hatley’s been seeing.
"They’re definitely more nasty" Scherer said. "The offensive line coach is a little cuckoo, so they take after him – or they’re trying to."
The energy level was high during o-line drills in Monday’s camp. On a pull, presumed starter Kevin Pendleton met an assistant coach holding a pad with a loud thud, driving him back five yards. Pendleton let out a "Wooo!" and clapped his hands while moving to the back of the line. He received an "attaboy" and a pat on the head from line coach Glen Elarbee.
Eventually, as camp wears on through August 25, players are going to get tired of hitting their own teammates, and they’ll want to take it out on someone else. If the offensive line continues to take it to the defensive line, there could be momentum that carries over to the regular season.