The Missouri Tigers ended the off-season officially on Tuesday with a two-and-a-half hour practice in shorts and helmets on Faurot Field. As we will be all spring, PowerMizzou.com was in attendance. Here are our impressions from our first look at the Tigers in the spring of 2008.
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*First off, some housekeeping items. Here are the number switches: Jared Perry is #4 on offense, Hardy Ricks, #4 on defense. LaRoderick Thomas switched positions to wide receiver and numbers to #2. Andrew Gachkar is wearing 6, Jeff Gettys 35, Jayson Palmgren 71.
*Another new number is Munir Prince, who wears 7. Prince is starting out at strong safety for the Tigers. However, the word is he'll eventually move to corner. The Tigers are hurting depth-wise at safety with William Moore and Ricks not practicing, so Prince is currently a second-stringer at strong safety. Since he can't play this year anyway, this gives him a chance to learn an added position and offer some versatility when he does get on the field. I will have more on Prince on the site tomorrow.
*In addition to Ricks and Moore, here are the other players who did not practice: Mack Breed (broken wrists, yes both of them), Danario Alexander (knee surgery), Chase Coffman (class), Jimmy Jackson (class), Andrew Gachkar (blood clot). In addition, Steve Redmond and Stryker Sulak were limited as they recover from off-season surgery.
*Gachkar's situation is very similar to what Jason Horton went through prior to his freshman season. Gary Pinkel said the Tigers hope he will be full strength come June. Moore also will get no work this spring.
*Alexander recently ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, which Pinkel said was "like jogging for him." I asked Danario if he'd been working on the Jeremy Maclin rehab plan: "I'm pretty much competing with him from last year. I'm trying to come out stronger and faster." Alexander said he hoped to get some contact drills in by the end of spring. He also joked about the large group of injured players as his "rehab buddies."
*With Jackson missing practice for class each Tuesday, Pinkel said Earl Goldsmith will work out at tailback on Tuesdays and wide receiver on Thursdays and Saturdays.
*We have mentioned many times the possible competition at punter. Jake Harry is the starter, but there are three walk-ons in camp who could push him. Tanner Mills (Rock Bridge) and John Clark (Duchesne) have both been all-state punters in high school. Grant Ressell is both a punter and the current listed backup to Jeff Wolfert at placekicker. From an untrained eye, Clark looked to have a very good day early on.
*At punt return, Maclin worked, along with Trey Hobson, Perry, DeVion Moore and Carl Gettis. Shouldn't be much of a competition here.
*We mentioned earlier on the message board that J.P. Tillman had left the program. That leaves Jimmy Costello, a second-year walk-on from Liberty, as the fourth string QB.
*With Gregory not at the first half of practice, Palmgren was getting some reps with the first-team offensive line at right guard. Dain Wise is still at left tackle and is running number one.
*There have been some questions on Michael Keck's weight. He is listed at 225 as the fourth-string defensive end on one side. Just looking at him, Keck will have a long summer in the weight room. You can play defensive end at that weight, but Keck has some bulk that needs to be put on.
*Some highlights from one-on-one receiving drills:
*Prince had great coverage downfield, but Daniel showed the pinpoint accuracy and hit Forrest Shock in stride for a long gain.
*Castine Bridges had fantastic coverage and broke up a short pass to Tommy Saunders. Bridges really progressed late last year and could be ready to play well.
*Carl Gettis got a pick defending my new favorite player: Walk-on Titus Wonsey. He is a 5-7, 195-pound tailback.
*It took less than two hours for the first fight of spring. Saunders and Bridges locked up in run drills and both were throwing punches before being separated.
*Coaches from both Washington and Ohio State were at the Tigers' practice, checking things out. Pinkel knew a lot of those guys from his coaching days, but when you have a season like Missouri did, it seems everyone takes notice.
*In 7-on-7, Munir Prince nearly had a pick as he read Chase Patton's eyes on a deep sideline route. Prince screamed, "I should have had that one" as it fell off his hands.
*After practice, Pinkel called the offensive line "probably the biggest question mark" on that side of the ball right now. There will be at least two new starters on the line and depth will be worked out over the next few weeks.
*Play of the Day: Jon Gissinger, working as the first-team tight end with Coffman gone, bobbled a short pass in the flat. The ball fluttered up in the air, over the head of Sean Weatherspoon and Gissinger caught the rebound.
*Player of the Day: LaRoderick Thomas looked good in the transition to wide receiver. Alexander said afterwards that Thomas gave the defense fits at times working on offense last year and that the older receivers were teaching him the ropes quickly.
*Quote of the Day: Weatherspoon was asked if the coaches had warned the team about becoming complacent: "We're not even allowed to talk about January first anymore, or that whole season. We can't even talk about it around coach Pinkel. He said he don't want to even hear about it."
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