Frequently last fall, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel spoke in glowing terms about his 2013 signing class. After a year in the program, many of those players are now in a position to begin to make moves up the depth chart in spring football.
"The biggest thing you try to do is to identify guys as spring goes and into August, guys that really are kind of moving themselves into position to play," Pinkel said. "Most of the guys did really good down at the Cotton Bowl. There's going to be quite a few players that I think will get in the depth. Some will probably happen in the spring and some will come in August."
Seven members of the class are already on the two-deep with more like quarterback Eddie Printz having a chance to move up in spring ball and/or fall camp.
FROM PROJECT TO PROSPECT: Perhaps no member of the 2013 class has made a more surprising move than defensive end Charles Harris. Pinkel's staff has made a habit out of finding under-the-radar recruits and hidden gems. But Harris is an extreme example, even for the Tigers.
A week before National Signing Day last February, Harris was planning to attend Missouri Western State College when Mizzou assistant Andy Hill invited him to Columbia for an official visit. A few days later, the Tigers offered Harris a scholarship.
"I don't think he did a lot of weight training, things like that, but we saw this raw kid athletically. We watched his film and you didn't see a guy who was really a very good football player, but you saw an athlete with size," Pinkel said. "We got some of his basketball film. I saw as much of his basketball film as anything so we knew he was a really good athlete.
"Now the intangibles. Is he going to be mentally tough? Will he be physical? A lot of those things you didn't see. Guess what? We hit on all of them. He's smart, he's a competitor, he's mentally tough, he's physically tough and he's got great desire. Those intangibles, if two of those didn't work, he probably wouldn't have played much. Ding, ding."
Harris and fellow redshirt freshman Marcus Loud are Mizzou's second-stringers at defensive end as spring ball opens. And they've impressed the starters already.
"Charles, he's such a hard worker. I mean, this kid, when everybody's at home, he's at the indoor doing drills by himself. He'll work out in the morning at six a.m. and come in and do the next workout at 2:30," Shane Ray said. "A guy with a work ethic like that, I feel like he doesn't have a ceiling. You keep working like that, you're going to do nothing but get better. That's gonna carry that kid and I can't wait to see what he does."
"That's a pretty good story," Pinkel said. "I think you're going to see a player who's going to be a really impact player."
PowerMizzou.com will have more on Harris later in spring ball as he was unavailable for an interview after practice on Friday.
A SCARE FOR SHERRILS: Another member of the 2013 class who is hoping to earn time on the field is cornerback Anthony Sherrills. A product of Hogan Prep in Kansas City, at this point, Sherrills is ecstatic to be on a football field at all.
Shortly after arriving on campus in Columbia last summer, Sherrills was involved in a car accident with a couple of his teammates.
"I was out for a month-and-a-half and I lost 20 pounds," Sherrills said. "It was really serious. I couldn't play, I could barely walk. My left side was dragging. It was a pretty bad injury. It was a brain injury. My brain bled. Just my whole body chemistry was messed up."
Overhearing Sherrills asked how serious the injuries were, Andy Hill, who was Sherrills lead recruiter, said with a smile, "Scared. He was mostly just scared." Hill was joking, but certainly Sherrills felt some fear as he battled through his recovery.
"It was scary because football wasn't even a thought," Sherrills said. "It was a great experience to the fact that I had to push through it and I'm here now, so I'm blessed."
For this redshirt freshman, fighting his way up the depth chart doesn't seem like quite such a daunting task after what he's overcome already.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: One of the mild surprises in the first week of spring ball was the move of Kentrell Brothers to middle linebacker. Brothers played outside as a sophomore. He made 70 tackles (fourth on the team) and had three interceptions (second). But he's slated to take over for Andrew Wilson in the middle of Mizzou's 4-3 defense right now.
"When I first came here I was a MIKE, then when I came back from my ankle injury I was a SAM and then last year I was at the WILL," the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Brothers said. "It's something I really enjoy. It's pretty tough having to back up what Wilson did."
"Every one of those guys has got to know two spots, so that allows us to mix and match, if a guy gets hurt, maybe slide somebody over," Pinkel said.
Brothers said the differences are both mental and physical. He's taking on bigger blockers in the middle and is also the man mainly charged with running the Tigers' defense on the field.
"I would say it's about 50-50," Brothers said. "In the SEC, regardless of where you play, you've got to be physical. That's just the aspect of the game. As far as telling the men what they've got to do, that's just being a leader. You've got to know the defense, you've got to know each position, you've got to be able to tell players what they need to do right off the bat. That's something I've been working on since I've been here."
Mizzou is now off until Tuesday afternoon when the Tigers return to the practice field at 3:30. PowerMizzou.com will have complete coverage.