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August 20, 2013

Camp Notebook: August 20

Fall camp is technically over for Missouri, but practices remain open for three more days. The Tigers started school on Monday and held the first workout of the final open week on Tuesday afternoon.

*The biggest (and best) news was the return of senior cornerback E.J. Gaines to the practice field. Gaines had missed about a week with a strained patellar tendon. Gary Pinkel said he thought the senior captain practiced at about 70% on Tuesday.

"I'm feeling a lot better," he said. "I've never really been in this position to sit back and watch practice. It's definitely different."

While the Tigers missed Gaines, it offered an inexperienced secondary a chance to get what could prove to be valuable experience.

"Just doing what I can, even though I'm not on the field, trying to help the younger guys, tell them what they're doing wrong," Gaines said. "It's kind of like I was a coach the last few days."

"Any time you've got a guy that as a sophomore was first team all-Big 12, that kind of high level player, you're going to miss him," Pinkel said. "That's the importance of staying healthy. Very few teams can lose an all-conference player and replace him with an all-conference player."

*Greg White wore a red pullover at the end of practice and Wesley Leftwich was in full red. We didn't spot any other scholarship players who were limited by health.

*Pinkel said Thursday's scrimmage will be important in clarifying the depth chart and identifying some freshmen that will play. He said the starters on each side of the ball will play the first quarter in a game-like situation and the rest of the scrimmage will be targeted to getting certain players a certain number of snaps.

*The Tiger kicking game has not been a subject of much camp speculation thus far. I asked Pinkel about both of his specialists, placekicker Andrew Baggett and punter Christian Brinser.

"Andrew, I think just a little bit more consistency we need, but he makes pressure kicks. He's always done that. I think he's certainly gotten better. His kickoffs have been really, really good this year," the coach said. "Brinser is doing extraordinarily well. I probably shouldn't say that, but I mean, really...He's really, really doing well."

Pinkel and Brinser both heavily credited a summer trip to a kicking camp in Wisconsin for his improvement. And the junior walk-on from Liberty isn't afraid to share his lofty goals.

"I'd like to lead the SEC in average and net punting," he said. "And just help out the team as much as I can. Putting the ball in different spots, dying the ball inside the ten, just putting the defense in a great position."

*I spoke to Marvin Foster a fifth-year senior defensive tackle who has been plagued by injury much of his career. We'll post a full video interview tomorrow, but Foster has become a bit of a leader among the defensive linemen. I asked him about a couple of the young guys at his position. He told me he was impressed not only with Josh Augusta's physical stature, but with how quickly the freshman has picked things up mentally since arriving on campus late. And he compared redshirt freshman Harold Brantley favorably to the recently departed Sheldon Richardson. Foster said he expects Brantley to be an elite defensive lineman before his career at Mizzou is done. Look for that interview tomorrow in our PMTV camp coverage.

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