The major storyline of Missouri's second spring scrimmage was written before a single play was run. No matter what transpired on Faurot Field Saturday morning, the focus was a player who wasn't there. Interviews with Missouri's offensive players started with innocuous throw-away questions about a scrimmage won 18-16 by the defense after a goal-line interception by Aarion Penton. They quickly shifted to quandaries about Dorial Green-Beckham's dismissal from the program on Friday afternoon.
"I'm not at liberty to even talk about that, honestly," wide receiver Jimmie Hunt said.
"I'm not allowed to talk about that," echoed Levi Copelin.
"I don't really want to talk about Dorial," Darius White said. "We leave all that to coach Pinkel."
Gary Pinkel was also asked about the decision to remove Green-Beckham from the program.
"When you're put in a position like me in that situation, I look at every bit of information I have and I've been doing this a long time. It's up to me to make a decision. Obviously I talk to Mike Alden about what I'm going to do. It's up to me to make a decision and ultimately in this situation I looked at a lot of things and I made the decision, the number one that we want to help Dorial get better and I think that's real, real important, okay, get some help. The other number one is I've got to protect the integrity of the program. That's what I have to do."
"I'm not going to discuss how I let him go. That's all personal. It's always tough. It's always difficult. But in the end of the day, you've got to do what's right. Every decision I've ever made here, you've got to do what's right."
Of course, now the issue for Missouri becomes replacing not only the former No. 1 high school player in America and his 883 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, but also Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington. The Tigers come off a 12-and-2 season without their starting quarterback, their leading rusher and 167 catches for 2,468 yards and 25 touchdowns from the trio of Washington, Lucas and DGB.
"I don't ever look at in terms of how this is going to affect our football team for any reason," Pinkel said. "I've got to deal with a situation whether it's his or others I've had in the past and you've got to just do what's right. That's the priority to do what's right. Right isn't saying, 'Gosh we're losing a really good player and we're going to really miss him next year.' You don't make a decision, I don't ever make a decision like that.
"It was about protecting the integrity of the program, it wasn't about who is going to play wide receiver. And it was about getting this guy some help so he can straighten himself out."
For the players on the field, though, replacing Green-Beckham has to be a focus.
"In this offense, you've got to be ready every play no matter what," starting quarterback Maty Mauk said. "Especially, with me back there, things you wouldn't expect can be done. Everybody's working and expecting the ball every play so that's a good thing."
In the wake of Green-Beckham's dismissal, the void is two-fold. First is leading the wide receivers out of a tumultuous week off the field where little of the focus has been on football.
"Oh man it's very important. It's a lot going on," White said. "We got to step up and make plays, be leaders, be vocal. It's a lot on me, Bud (Sasser) and Jimmie."
Second is replacing the on-field production. That won't likely be done by one player individually, but rather by Missouri's receiving corps as a whole.
"It's no time to wait," redshirt freshman J'Mon Moore said. "People leave, leaders leave, it's time for somebody else to step up. All the young offensive guys coming in, we have to step up. That's why you're here."
"Some of the younger guys definitely need to realize that it's time," Levi Copelin added. "It's time to grow up. We don't have time for mistakes, we don't have time for childish behavior and I think it's time to get ready and go."
"We still got guys coming along so it's still gonna be good," White said. "We still got guys coming in in the summer. We're gonna get with them, work with them."
One of those is 2014 signee Darnell Green, Dorial's younger brother. Asked if he expected Green to be on Missouri's roster next year following his brother's dismissal, Pinkel said, "I certainly hope so." Another freshman expected to contribute even before Green-Beckham's departure is Georgia four-star Nate Brown, who tweeted about an hour after the news came out, "Being unprepared is no longer an option."
The questions won't end. But all that will matter now is Missouri's response.
"Your level of focus is always on you. You decide what you want to focus on," Moore said. "All the extra things that go on, you can focus on them, but of course you won't focus on football. If you focus on football, then you should be fine."