March 8, 2012
The Missouri football team was back at it on Thursday, moving inside to Devine Pavilion for the second installment of spring practice. PowerMizzou.com was on hand for all the action.
-- As always, an injury update to start. L'Damian Washington was limited with a strained hamstring suffered on Tuesday. Brayden Burnett, who was held out of practice on Tuesday, is in the hospital with pneumonia. Gary Pinkel said it sounds bad, but they expect Burnett to be fine.
Chris Freeman was back full-bore at practice, recovered from a recent car accident. During team drills, Freeman was the first team right tackle, with Justin Britt moving to left tackle as Elvis Fisher recovers from that August knee injury.
Kentrell Brothers also ditched the red jersey and appears completely healed from the broken ankle that ended his freshman year before it began.
Missing from practice was defensive tackle George White, who Pinkel said was dealing with "personal problems." That thinned out an already thin unit, and gave more reps to Matt Hoch, who is still making the transition to defensive tackle.
-- Returning punts on Thursday were T.J. Moe, E.J. Gaines, Marcus Murphy, Jimmie Hunt and Ian Simon. Later in practice, however, only Moe, Gaines and Murphy returned punts. My money is on the punt returner for 2012 coming from that trio.
-- I spent some time watching one-on-one lineman drills, as they work out closest to the designated media area. In a recent article, offensive coordinator David Yost said Britt and Fisher were the best pair of tackles in the nation, and I scoffed a bit at that. However, after watching Britt go up mainly against Michael Sam in those drills, I can definitely understand why Yost is so high on his junior right tackle. Britt consistently shut down Sam. Britt had some learning moments in 2011, but he may turn out to be its best lineman in 2012.
-- Going mainly against Travis Ruth and Mitch Morse[/b], Matt Hoch had an up-and-down day. He's listed at 290 pounds, but he carries the weight well, and he still looks pretty quick for his size. As he's still learning the craft of a defensive tackle, Hoch needs to add some moves to his repertoire. He mainly settles for a bull-rush right now, which will work, but he's evolution will be one of the big things to watch this spring.
-- I was talking with another writer about [db]Kenronte Walker on Thursday, and I really get the impression that he could have a break-out year in 2012. Walker is easily Missouri's most-physical safety, and I think the transition to the SEC could be a huge boon for him. He could be a dynamo in run coverage. It's early to say this, but I think it's pretty safe to pencil in Walker as the starting strong safety for 2012.
-- A few quick hits: Gaines continues to impress. He had another interception on Thursday, and broke up a deep pass to Marcus Lucas during one-on-one drills. Lucas looked open, too -- Gaines is just closing that much faster this year ... Lucas Vincent bulled over Morse in one drill, drawing ample, and vocal, celebration from Sheldon Richardson: "First team, baby!," Richardson shouted from the sideline ... Randy Ponder intercepted a pass down the sideline from Corbin Berkstresser, intended for Rolandis Woodland ... Woodland responded later in practice, making a tough catch over the middle in between defenders. He also turned a short catch into a touchdown at the end of practice.
PLAY OF THE DAY: James Franklin lofted a pass toward the sideline, over a defender, placing it perfectly into Lucas's hands as he streaked down the sideline for a big game. Franklin has shown more consistent velocity this week, but that was a great reminder of his ability to put perfect touch on his passes, too.
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