The Missouri Tigers crossed the halfway point of spring practice with a Tuesday workout inside the Devine Pavilion. As always, PowerMizzou.com was in attendance and has this report:
*Derrick Washington returned to practice after missing the first half of spring ball recuperating from knee surgery. Washington looked back to full strength...and maybe even quite a bit quicker than he was last season.
"They players say Derrick has fresh legs, that's what they all say," Gary Pinkel said. "Then they were ripping him, saying he hasn't done anything for three months, so he should be fresh."
Washington ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, but said he was far from 100% after suffering the injury in the non-conference season.
"It affected me quite a bit," Washington said. "I began to get a cyst in my calf during the season and it didn't show up on the MRI, so that was the main thing, we didn't know what it was. I was limping throughout the season and I didn't know what was going on, but I played through it because I wanted to play."
With Washington back at full strength and teaming with DeVion Moore, the Tigers feel they have a strong tandem at tailback.
"The running backs are getting banged up, but we're getting healthy," Washington said. "DeVion didn't carry the ball that much last year, but he's coming in this year and he's doing a tremendous job. I think he's going to be a great tailback."
*Moore was one of the Tigers sporting white practice pants on Tuesday. The pants were worn by about ten Tigers. They were made of a different fabric by Nike and select Mizzou players were giving them a test run in practice.
*With Washington back, there were some new additions to the injury list. Josh Tatum is battling what Pinkel called "a back problem" and was severely hobbled. The linebacker started practice in a red pullover, but quickly went to a full red jersey. Kenji Jackson and Jarrell Harrison tweaked hamstrings during practice, but Pinkel said he is hopeful both will be ready to go by Thursday.
*Very little movement we noticed on the depth chart after the first scrimmage. Jimmy Burge appears to have moved past Andy Maples to third string at defensive tackle, but there were really no other changes that I could see.
*Gahn McGaffie is slated as the top punt return man right now. I talked to McGaffie and Kip Edwards, who appears to be right in the running on kickoff returns, about replacing Jeremy Maclin and handling those duties. I'll have more on that later this week.
*A few notes from one-on-one receiving drills:
Jimmy Costello hit McGaffie with a beautiful pass down the middle of the field. Robert Steeples had pretty good coverage, but the pass floated right into the receiver.
Blaine Dalton hit Beau Brinkley with a nice floater in the corner of the end zone over the top of Edwards.
Wes Kemp put a great move on Carl Gettis to break free over the middle, but couldn't haul in a pass from Blaine Gabbert. The ball may have been thrown just a touch high. I like what I've seen out of Kemp if he can continue to improve his hands.
*Some things I picked up in 11-on-11:
Gabbert hit Jerrell Jackson with a bullet over the middle. I've seen these two hook up a lot. Sometimes a quarterback develops a favorite receiver. I think Gabbert and Jackson have a good chemistry going.
*Kemp did haul in a short middle screen during these drills. He then made a couple of shifty moves and took the ball all the way down to the end zone. Great elusiveness from the big sophomore.
*The fight of the day came courtesy of Hardy Ricks. He took exception to something Elvis Fisher did and threw a haymaker at the big left tackle. If I'm Ricks, there might be better guys to pick on.
*Brian Coulter made a nice play, batting down a pass from Gabbert. I'm really impressed by the play of the top three defensive ends for the Tigers. I had two different people mention to me that Aldon Smith looked almost unblockable at times.
*Kevin Rutland delivered the hit of the day and he hammered Jarrell Jackson. It almost looked to be helmet-to-helmet contact, but fortunately both players got up quickly with no issue.
*Play of the Day: Costello lofted a long pass down the left sideline and Michael Egnew hauled it in. Egnew was quickly met by two defenders, but held on as he went down. Between eight catches in the last scrimmage and some nice grabs today, you can really start to see some of the promise that had Tiger coaches so excited about Egnew last year when he came in.
*Player of the Day: Congratulations go out to wide receiver Brandon Gerau, who found out on Monday afternoon that he is no longer a walk-on. The former Rock Bridge Bruin has earned a scholarship from the Tigers.
"Yeah, it's nice," Gerau said. "But, I mean, I'm not going to let it affect me. I didn't let it affect me before. I mean, in the back of my mind it's nice, but I've just got to keep the same approach and work hard every day."
I asked Gerau who was happier with the news—himself or his parents who can put their checkbook away for the next three years.
"Probably both of us."
Missouri returns to the practice field on Thursday at 3:30. PowerMizzou.com will be on hand with complete coverage.
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