Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — After eight straight days of practice, the Missouri football team will suit up for its first scrimmage today.
“It’s a live scrimmage and a lot of evaluation of personnel — like it is every day, but certainly in the scrimmage, it’s kind of like a game day-type atmosphere,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “So there’s a little more weight on that practice (today).”
Pinkel said he expects the first, second and third team to each get 45 situational plays in.
“It’s more of a game environment, because it’s live, and we’re tackling everybody except for the quarterbacks,” he said.
The Tigers enter the scrimmage a little banged up. Eight players will likely miss the scrimmage: starting safety and team co-captain Braylon Webb (shoulder), starting defensive tackle Matt Hoch (pectoral muscle), starting guard Connor McGovern (pectoral muscle), starting linebacker Donavin Newsom (hamstring), junior safety Cortland Browning (shoulder), sophomore tailback Morgan Steward (hip), freshman linebacker Grant Jones (knee) and sophomore receiver Eric Laurent (hamstring).
Pinkel said none of the injuries are too serious.
“The level that we play and how we practice and the intensity and what we do — we do everything we can to be safe in terms of how we practice, but you’re gonna have guys get banged up,” Pinkel said. “It’s going to happen. That’s the reality of it. The most important thing is all these guys are going to get back, and that’s good.”
Senior receiver Darius White hurt his ankle in Monday’s practice but is expected to play in the scrimmage.
“We just move on,” Pinkel said. “Move ‘em over, move ‘em up and go compete and prove to your teammates that you can play at this level, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
One reporter asked the 14th-year Missouri coach if he was worried about injuries piling up at linebacker and safety.
“Can you guys pad up?” Pinkel joked.
He said a lot will go into the evaluations he and his staff make during today’s scrimmage.
“We just don’t look at the stats of a running back or a quarterback,” he said. “We look at the teams that they were going against, and if you’re going against the first and second defense the whole time, it’s a lot different than going against the third and fourth defense.”
He also said it’s important for the players to know beforehand what the coaches’ focus is.
“I’ll talk to the team about — as I do every (year) before the first scrimmage — what we’re trying to get out of what we’re looking at,” he said.
For example, Pinkel said the coaching staff will tell the offensive linemen they’re looking for the top 12 players: five starters, five backups and two third-stringers.
“We do that with every position,” he said.
And more can factor into a coach’s analysis than simply how players played in an Aug. 12 scrimmage.
“Let’s say you have a younger player against an older player in there,” Pinkel said. “If that younger player, if he gets all this work, would he pass this guy up in four or five weeks? So we have to project that.”
Case in point, perhaps: the battle for the backup quarterback spot. Junior Corbin Berkstresser, who has starting experience, and redshirt freshman Eddie Printz are supposedly neck and neck for the spot. Pinkel didn’t disclose a deadline for the backup to be chosen.
“But it’ll happen the next couple weeks, though,” he said.
Another key player to watch in the scrimmage will be senior tailback Marcus Murphy, who has been trying his hand at receiver because of significant losses to the Tigers’ receiving corps.
“I think he’ll stay at wide receiver most of the scrimmage,” Pinkel said. “Those discussions take place (Monday) afternoon. After our team meeting, we look at (today)’s scrimmage, and then we look and we go through every personnel area and decide who’s going to be where, who’s going to get the number of reps they’re going to get, are they going to go with 1s, 2s or 3s?”
Monday morning’s practice was the first chance for the team to get back to work after the Tigers’ Fan Appreciation Day. Missouri football has held the event for 12 years, but Sunday marked a first for Pinkel.
“What we do is all the first-year players (and) I get a photo in the stadium, and the reason we do it, we send them back to their high schools,” he said, “and all high schools put them up, and that’s good, obviously, marketing for Mizzou.
“And this is the first time guys come and go, ‘Hey, coach. How about a selfie?’ So they get up and they do a selfie, and then I notice some are doing three, and I say, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m changing my expression in all three.’
“My god, am I getting old.”