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March 19, 2009

Thursday Practice Report

In its last meeting before spring break, the Missouri football team ended a slightly shorter practice with its first scrimmage of the spring season.

The defense returned two Blaine Gabbert-interceptions for touchdowns early in the scrimmage and never looked back, soundly defeating the offense. The only touchdown for the Tigers' offense came near the end off the scrimmage. In a match-up between the third-string offense and third-string defense, walk-on tailback Matt Davis spun off a tackle at the goal line and waltzed into the endzone.

"It's their first scrimmage," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after the practice. "And that's why we do it and take a break and come back and get going."

Pinkel said there were good and bad aspects to the scrimmage. He cited the Tigers' first and second-string rushing offenses as one of the more positive areas of Thursday's scrimmage, as well as the pass defense out of the first and second-string defense.

On one of the first few plays of the practice, Gabbert tried to hit wide receiver Wes Kemp with an out-route, but Trey Hobson jumped the pass, spun around and went untouched into the end zone. In fact, the hardest hit of the day may have come on that play, as Gabbert ran through a referee as he tried to chase down Hobson.

Two plays later, Robert Steeples jumped in front of Jerrell Jackson, who was running a slant, and picked off Gabbert's pass. Steeples then juked Gabbert and went untouched to the endzone.

"There's always a concern about turnovers," Pinkel said. "Just because last year, the last two thirds or half of the season were devastating to our football team. You learn from them, and see if it was a bad route or bad pass. You analyze them and learn from them.

Missouri now gets over a week to rest and get ready for the last three weeks of spring practice. Many players are heading to their respective spring break locations on Friday in order to watch the basketball team take on Cornell in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.

"I've got a test tomorrow at one," Sean Weatherspoon said. "So I can't wait to sit down in front of the TV and relax and see how our boys do."

Gabbert and Will Ebner are going to Texas for their break, and while they will be traveling for the start of the game, Gabbert said they'll be getting updates.

"We should be there by half-time," Gabbert said. "So we'll catch the second half."

Kurtis Gregory, however, has a different sort of spring break planned.

"I'll be probably be bailing hay at this time tomorrow," Gregory laughed, referring to his family's farm in Missouri. "But hopefully we'll have the game on the radio."

THURSDAY PRACTICE QUICK HITS

* Tim Barnes is becoming an absolute monster at the center position. Barnes is just mauling people out there, and he seems to be developing a little more of a nasty streak - which is notable, considering Barnes is one of the nicest people you'll meet. In one-on-one drills, Barnes pancaked Terrell Resonno, drawing a loud response from the rest of the offensive linemen.

"He's just stepping up," Pinkel said. "He should be thinking about getting all-conference honors this year. He's had his year, he's done some things, and he's just a big guy. He certainly should be doing some things."

* Both De'Vion Moore and Shawn Scott looked good running the ball today. Moore is becoming very skilled at hiding behind his blockers and then darting out when he sees a hole. He's not the biggest guy, and definitely can't be a 15- or 20-carry a game guy, but he's going to be a great change-of-pace back for the Tigers this year. He showed a bit of what he can do last year, and it looks like he's gotten much better.

* Gabbert has to be itching to get Jared Perry and Danario Alexander back. He made some good throws today, but there were an exceptional amount of drops by some of the young receivers. That can be attributed to inexperience, and to the fact that the defense - especially the linebackers - were flying around in coverage today.

* Jimmy Costello hit Michael Egnew with a 15-yard pass along the sideline, and Egnew took it another 15 yards before he was brought down. Egnew's catch was very athletic, as he jumped, twisted his body in the air, and reached back over his head to bring the pass down.

* The rush-end tandem of Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith deserves all the praise its getting. On every pass play, especially when a young quarterback is in, the offense is continually getting hurried. Jacquies Smith had a nice sack of Costello today and almost stripped him of the ball.

PowerMizzou.com's spring football coverage is sponsored by Pension & Benefits Live. Jesse Cox (stljesstx) and Tim Killday (Killer) would appreciate the opportunity to be a resource to you for company benefits and/or individual health and life insurance needs.



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