If one word has been uttered more than any other by Gary Pinkel in his career at Missouri, it might be "discipline." Pinkel talked plenty about discipline at media day on Monday. But not in the way he'd like to.
"I'm embarrassed," Pinkel said. "I'm disappointed with it. That's an understatement."
Pinkel began his media address by letting those who didn't already know that Derrick Washington had been charged with deviate sexual assault, a Class C felony. Washington will be indefinitely suspended, per University policy.
"It's a very, very serious matter," Pinkel said. "And we're going to let the process take its course."
Washington's charge is the most serious, but is not alone as far as legal trouble goes. Two players and an assistant coach have been arrested on DWI charges in the last month. It has hardly been a peaceful pre-season for the 10th-year coach.
"I'm responsible for everything that happens with all 126 football players, and my staff, and everybody," Pinkel said. "Just like a parent. Parents are responsible for their kids, no matter what they do or what they get involved with."
The players appreciate their coach's words. But at some point, the onus falls on the team.
"Coach Pinkel, he does what he can. The coaching staff, they do what they can. But they can't look after 126 grown men," Carl Gettis said. "It's just going to be us leaning on each other and staying tight as a team."
Pinkel said the coaches alert all players via text message or phone call when a disciplinary issue arises, so they don't find out on campus or from a media report. "We have a lot of discipline problems you don't even know about...I have 125 kids, and half of them are teenagers. I guarantee you, I've got a lot of problems." A couple of players admitted a feeling of dread when their cell phones buzzed in the last week.
"It's been tough," Tim Barnes said. "But at the same time, you can't let that stuff get to you. We've got a game to play this coming Saturday. We've got to not really worry about it, come out and concentrate on watching the film, having good practices. For me, that's what it's been."
But beyond how it reflects on the program, how it may impact their performance on the field, a few Tigers expressed concern for their friend.
"Me and Derrick, we came in the same recruiting class together. One of my best friends," Gettis said. "I see him every day. I talk to him about. Just keeping his spirits up, just telling him everything will work out for the best."
"It's our brother, it's our family, man," said Kendial Lawrence, who replaces Washington in the starting lineup. "We're all down about it and sad about it, but at least we can just pick him up and have his back on it and play hard for him."
Pinkel and his players spoke of a determination not to be labelled as an undisciplined program.
"Our program was built and got us to this point," Pinkel said. "We have to earn respect back. And that's the way it should be"
With Washington out, sophomore Kendial Lawrence will get the first shot at filling the void. The sophomore ran for 216 yards on 51 carries a season ago.
"I'm ready to pick up the slack and be there for my team in any way that I can," Lawrence said. "It's unfortunate that it would happen like this, but I mean, we just have to go along with it."
In addition, De'Vion Moore says he is full recovered from a big toe injury that kept him out of the final week of camp. He will be the second-stringer with true freshmen Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy rounding out the depth.
"I think each one of the backs that we have this year is up to the challenge," Moore said. "Kendial's a great running back. He's gonna go out and produce. Henry will produce, Marcus, he will produce. We all just go out and we want to produce for the team. I think everybody is prepared for it."
Welcome Back, Jackson
Perhaps the biggest news when Missouri released its depth chart on Monday was the presence of Jerrell Jackson's name. The junior receiver broke a bone in his wrist early in camp and was originally ruled out for at least the first two games.
Not so fast.
Jackson is listed as the starter at the X-receiver position for Saturday.
"He has really done remarkably well," Pinkel said. "Just could never, ever predict that a guy could do what he's doing out there. But he's a very, very talented athlete and certainly a positive that we have him back."
The Houston native will play with a cast on his left hand, but he says he has gotten used to it the last few days in camp.
"Some time last week, when I first started catching with the cast on, it felt good," Jackson said. "I knew a few more days after that it would be fine and right now, it's feeling pretty good."
Jackson started camp at the H-receiver position, but his return to the depth chart has him outside with T.J. Moe taking over in the slot.
"What you do is you number your receivers, and you look at T.J, Wes Kemp and Jerrell," Pinkel said. "Who are the three best wide receivers at this time? That's why we made that decision."
The last time the media had access to the Tigers, cornerback Munir Prince was riding away in an ambulance, the victim of a hard hit during punt return drills that left him unconscious and motionless on Faurot Field.
"Guys get hit a lot and we usually just continue practice. If we stopped practice every time a guy went down, we probably wouldn't get done," Pinkel said. "But I didn't see any movement. None. And I was absolutely frightened. Scared to death."
Pinkel said he rode a golf cart to the hospital after practice, joining Prince's father, who had been at the workout. He said that Prince began to regain feeling in his extremities after about 30 minutes. "It was a relief. Relief is an understatement."
Pinkel said on Monday that Prince had been out of the hospital for a few days and was doing well. He will have a few tests re-run in the next couple of weeks.
"Then we'll sit down with the medical staff and his family and myself and discuss his future," Pinkel said. "But the good news is, he's doing well."
Lining up at quarterback for Illinois is redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase, a familiar name to Missouri fans. The Tigers recruited Scheelhaase out of Rockhurst High School in the Class of 2009.
"I always feel, when it's all said and done, they go where the best place for them is," Pinkel said. "That's okay with me and he's a fine young man."
Pinkel said Mizzou was looking at Scheelhaase as an athlete, but he knows well the danger the Kansas City native can pose in the pocket.
"I remember he's a great athlete, very impressed with him athletically," Pinkel said. "He's going to be a challenge for us to have that kind of an athlete back there and we're certainly aware of that. He's a very smart guy, great athlete and I think he's very poised."