I attended Mizzou practice on Tuesday, the first practice back from Spring Break. I wasn't the only one to attend: 2016 receiver Harry Ballard was observing on the sidelines.
After being held out of practice, and after Barry Odom said he wasn't worried about it, Nate Crawford has been ruled out for the rest of the spring due to a "lower back procedure." Joining him are Charles Harris (right shoulder labrum repair) and his backup at defensive end, Nate Howard (left knee injury).
Returning to practice, at least with limited contact, were Terry Beckner Jr. and safety Tavon Ross -- both are coming off of ACL injuries. Walk-on safety Isaiah Pierre returned from an ACL injury, offensive lineman Jonah Dubinski from a meniscus tear.
Giving it a full go were wide receivers Chris Black, Johnathan Johnson and Ray Wingo, as well as defensive tackle A.J. Logan.
For a lack of a better term I'll call these "position battles," even though they may be nothing more than coaches trying to motivate their players or see how they fit in different roles. To complicate things, Missouri is dealing with some key injuries, which makes drawing concrete conclusions difficult. But hey, what else do we have to go on?
- WLB: Joey Burkett vs. Brandon Lee
- MLB: Michael Scherer vs. Cale Garrett
- SLB: Terez Hall vs. Donavin Newsom
It was mentioned in this morning's links, but Terez Hall has potentially played his way into the starting Sam linebacker job. On the surface that's surprising because we've been hearing about Newsom's potential for a while and because it was Brandon Lee who was supposed break out this spring.
We know that Odom likes the aggressiveness Hall brings to the field, but there's also been mention of the Sam being a hybrid safety/linebacker role under Cross. This could be a motivational ploy or a chance to see how well Hall runs the new scheme vs Newsom.
I think Newsom is too athletic to lose out on a starting position and that he could end up moving over to the WLB, replacing Kentrell Brothers.
Lastly, it was interesting that Hall mentioned 2016 early enrollee Cale Garrett getting reps behind Michael Scherer at middle linebacker.
- DT: Rickey Hatley vs. Josh Moore
- NT: AJ Logan vs. Josh Augusta
- LDE: Walter Brady vs. Marcell Frazier
AJ Logan's return from a tweaked knee also came with a small bump up the depth chart -- I noticed him getting some reps with the first team over Josh Augusta. It's likely just to allow him to test his recovery but also maybe a bit of motivation for Augusta. Terry Beckner Jr. was also being eased back into the rotation. Elsewhere, with Harris and his backup Nate Howard out it was Spencer Williams getting first team reps at right defensive end.
- LT: Tyler Howell vs. Tanner Owen
- LG: Kevin Pendleton vs. AJ Harris
- C: Alec Abeln vs. Samson Bailey
- RG: Adam Ploudre vs. Jonah Dubinski
- RT: Paul Adams vs. Thomas Grossman
Some one on one drills. The thing that always stands out to me when watching the OL is how physical and nasty they are vs last year, specifically Kevin Pendleton and AJ Harris.
OL doing 1 on 1 drills pic.twitter.com/SoMBWMUt2U— Oscar Gambler (@oscargambler) April 5, 2016
Linemen practicing their "steps". Notice 6'8 Tyler Howell's quick feet. He may be raw but his feet are pretty nimble which is a great thing for a left tackle. If there's still reason for concern it's his high center of gravity and we still haven't seen him against SEC-level competition.
OL going thru steps pic.twitter.com/5FHMzNtqT2— Oscar Gambler (@oscargambler) April 5, 2016
With Nate Crawford out and Clay Rhodes still absent, Missouri reshuffled its line a bit, moving Kevin Pendleton over to left guard to learn that position. It appeared walk-on Adam Ploudre was getting reps at right guard. I'd say it's a precautionary move to give all the guys an opportunity to prove themselves, but it was notable to me for two reasons:
A) If Crawford isn't able to come back, Missouri might be fielding a walk-on at a guard position for the first time since Max Copeland
B) Highly-touted AJ Harris didn't appear to be stepping up into the vacancy. A lot can change in the next few practices but it's something to keep an eye on.
- A few weeks ago, Odom revealed he'd hired Mike McHugh to be the new Director of Recruiting Operations. McHugh created the position at Missouri in the early 90's and held the same position at Oregon, California, Fresno State and most recently Washington. I was able to briefly meet Mike McHugh before the start of practice Tuesday, and he told me a little story about going through the file cabinets and finding the original paperwork from when he created the position here at Mizzou for Larry Smith and Joe Castiglione.
- I thought it was interesting the staff gave Marvin Zanders a special orange jersey for practice. When asked about it, Odom explained it was to indicate the incredibly mobile QB was a live target and that the defense could tackle him - if they could catch him.
- I snipped this clip from Brian Austin's video (embedded at the top) of all three of Mizzou's quarterbacks going through drills at practice. I thought it showed how Heupel is having his QBs focus on fundamentals, and it also gave a nice angle of their respective throwing motions -- it definitely looks like Lock has the quickest and highest release.
The next practice, on Thursday, is closed to the media (but open to students!). The next open practice will be Friday, April 8th.