The Missouri football team is flying so low under the
radar sonar right now that Head Coach Barry Odom is developing a Scottish accent and considering a defection to the United States Navy; and honestly, that’s probably how he prefers it. Instead of wasting his time supplying the media with non-answers about the makeup of his 2017 squad, Odom has been able to prepare for the rapidly approaching Black and Gold Game in relative seclusion thanks to the (justified) fanfare surrounding basketball’s recruiting efforts. That’s not to say there aren’t matters to discuss, though. Both good and bad, unfortunately.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we may be in for a return of some #TightEndPassingGame:
With junior Kendall Blanton (16 catches, 161 yards, three touchdowns) and senior Jason Reese (eight, 97, two) back from last year’s tight end rotation, the Tigers figure to use another committee approach to fulfill the variety of roles the position plays in coordinator Josh Heupel’s offense. Ankle surgery has sidelined Blanton this spring, giving the two redshirt freshmen [Brendan Scales and Albert Okwuegbunam] valuable experience with the first and second units.
“They’re a really strong point for us offensively,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said after Tuesday’s practice. “They’ve taken a lot of reps. We’ve lined them up everywhere.”
Fret not, good disciples of the SEC Football Credo. This does not mean that the running game has been forgotten. In fact, per the Columbia Missourian, returning senior Ish Witter has worked quite hard to set himself up for success this season:
Coach Barry Odom said Witter has transformed his body — he’s currently listed as two inches taller than his freshman season — and he has developed as a leader on the Missouri offense.
“He’s one of the more vocal ones,” coach Barry Odom said.
For Witter, speaking up at practice was new. His first three years in college, he tried to lead by example on the field.
Going into his senior year, his approach changed after a conversation with running backs coach Cornell Ford.
“He was like, ‘you’re the oldest in the room by a few years,’” Witter said. “So I definitely had to be more vocal and coach up the guys sometimes.”
This newfound leadership has reportedly helped the progression of Witter’s backfield-mate and 1,000-yard rusher Damarea Crockett, which means he might be better this season, which would be nice:
Last fall, Crockett remembers practicing corner blitz protections, where the running backs had to block charging defensive backs. Crockett had not seen that type of blitz in high school, and Witter helped him learn.
“He kind of coached me up on that,” Crockett said. “And I actually caught it.”
Crockett said Witter constantly talks about his experiences playing in the Citrus Bowl. It’s motivating for the freshman; he wants to play in a bowl game, too, and contend for an SEC East title.
On the defensive side of things, the KC Star would like you to make a quick mental note of a visible change in Defensive Lineman Terry Beckner Jr.’s game:
This fall, Beckner will pay homage to [older cousin Dewith] Willis after switching from No. 79 to No. 5 during the offseason.
“He comes to the games ,” Beckner said. “He already called me about (wearing No. 5) anyway, so he probably will be (pumped).”
Cornerback John Gibson’s graduation left No. 5 on Mizzou’s defense up for grabs, so Beckner happily claimed it — even if it will be something of an odd sight on game day.
“I always wanted a single digit,” Beckner said, “ … but it probably does” look different on a 300-pound defensive lineman. “Usually, you see somebody that’s about 170, 180 in that jersey.”
I do love it when a big man wears a little number.
The team has confirmed that Marcell Frazier will miss the rest of spring practice after breaking his right arm during Saturday’s scrimmage.
"You never want an injury but you’d rather have it now than the middle of August," Missouri coach Barry Odom said after Tuesday's practice. "We expect him back full ready to roll in June. I hate it because he was having a really good spring and had developed into a really good leadership role. That won’t stop for him. He’ll just be out a couple days and take a little bit to get back from that injury."
The injuries and attrition on the defensive line will mean Missouri will have to get creative to navigate Saturday's Black and Gold scrimmage.
"We'll make it work," Odom said. "There will be some guys playing on Saturday that their name will be new to a lot of people, but I know we'll give a great effort."
Injuries are never a good thing, but at least it seems like this one won’t hinder Frazier’s season any.
Fine, here’s some Basketball Links
- Five-star East St. Louis recruit Jeremiah Tilmon was released from his national letter of intent by Illinois yesterday. This update has been brought to you by the emoji.
- Mizzou would almost certainly roll out the red carpet for Tilmon, just as they did for Blake Harris and Kevin Knox when they visited last weekend. To great effect, I might add.
- The whirlwind of success the Tigers have experienced on the recruiting trail hasn’t been completely Cuonzo Martin’s doing. Rather, it’s been a team effort. One that the Trib’s Joe Walljasper and Daniel Jones so eloquently detailed.
- Softball completed the doubleheader sweep of Western Illinois yesterday, but lost catcher Kirsten Mack to injury in the process.
The official word from Missouri's trainer is that Mack suffered a shoulder stinger and would be out for the day, though she is hopeful for this weekend's series against No. 7 Auburn.
- The baseball team improved to 24-9 on the season after beating Arkansas Pine-Bluff last night 13-1.
- Pitcher Andy Toelken started the mid-week game after being shifted from his spot as a weekend starter in an attempt to regain his mojo.
- Golfer Linus Lilliedahl won his first tournament yesterday. The newly crowned champion led a group of five Tigers who finished in the tournament’s top 12, which was good enough to secure the team title as well.
STATEMENT FROM MIZZOU WRESTLING:
Mizzou Wrestling and Mizzou Athletics is saddened to hear of the passing of former wrestler B.J. Toal, who passed away yesterday after being involved in an April 1 accident. With his older brother Zach being on the team as well, the Toal family has been a part of the TigerStyle family for a long time and forever will be. Our thoughts and prayers are with B.J.'s family and friends during this time of grief.
STATEMENT FROM HEAD COACH BRIAN SMITH:
"I remember meeting B.J. when he was in 8th grade. I joked with his older brother Zach that he was stronger than him and I knew I would recruit him even though he wasn't in high school yet. He came in with a great recruiting class, and we had high expectations, but unfortunately injuries kept him from reaching those expectations. The great thing about B.J. was he continued to share his passion for wrestling through coaching and other avenues. He impacted so many other people's lives, just like he impacted ours. The TigerStyle family is going through a tough time right now, my biggest prayers are with his family helping them get through this."
Sending good vibes to those feeling this loss.