During the Night at the Zou football camp, top prospects took turn benching 225 pounds while current Tigers cheered loudly.
Even when the doors are closed to the public, the cheering remains. New coach Rohrk Cutchlow implemented a tough program after last season’s 5-7 campaign, but with the Mizzou players having each others’ backs through it, it made them want to exceed their own limits.
“We like to ramp the tempo up and everybody’s intensity level high,” Aarion Penton said. “It makes them want to show out and perform to the best of their ability.”
Sophomore linebacker Terez Hall put it more bluntly.
“It’s always a turned-up atmosphere. Crazy.”
Penton hasn’t tested his limits when it comes to repping 225, but he said he went from around eight reps into the double-digits. That fits in-line with his reputation as a physical, pressing cornerback. During the first day of fall camp on Wednesday, DeMontie Cross called Penton Missouri’s best corner and said they needed to find someone who could match his level of play on the opposite side of the field.
Based off of 7-on-7s, Penton noticed the increase of strength and speed from his teammates on the offensive side of the ball. The quarterback’s arms in particular have gotten stronger, which benefits speedy, young receivers such as Johnathon Johnson and newcomer Dimetrious Mason.
Hall sees Drew Lock progressing before his eyes. He pointed out one skill in particular that’s much more apparent now and will be when the season kicks off.
“He can run now,” Hall said. “Just know that he’s more patient. He’s more in-depth to the game.”
The top-notch defense from last year will remain. “Defense is the same old defense: savage,” Penton said. “Everybody just looks stronger, so I can’t wait to get stronger.”
A potential key cog in the defense will be Hall, who was impressive enough last year to skip a redshirt despite a loaded linebacking corps. He credits the conditioning program as a reason for his potential evolution as a player.
“I feel like I got a whole lot better. A lot faster, a whole lot quicker. Everything got better. As a team, we’re the same way.”
Though they’re pleased with the team’s progress, both Hall and Penton are itching for opening weekend at West Virginia. After a tough season last year, and after being picked to finish sixth in the SEC East, the Tigers have a lot to prove and are ready to show the country.
“We’re ready,” Hall said. “That’s all I’m saying. We’re ready to make some noise.”
For Penton, he has an added reason for wanting to show out against the Mountaineers.
“I can’t wait, really,” Penton said. “My birthday is on September 3.”