Players put their stamp on this year’s MU team

Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune

COLUMBIA — Missouri offensive tackle Mitch Morse is happy to be a captain for the 2014 Tigers, but he’s going to have to adjust one part of his pregame ritual.

His vomiting schedule.

“It always happens right as the captains go out,” said the senior from Austin, Texas. “It’s like a trigger in my head, so I’m just going to have to force myself to do it earlier.”

Besides that, Morse can rely on what he has learned from former offensive linemen like Tim Barnes and Elvis Fisher, who also served as Missouri captains.

“It’s really been a blessing to have guys like that around,” Morse said.

Defensive end Markus Golden, receiver Bud Sasser and safety Braylon Webb are the other captains leading this year’s team.

“(Being a captain is) easy when we’re winning, when everything’s going fine,” Webb said. “It’s just the tough times when we’ve got to step up, push our team, motivate the team in any way possible and just push them through.”

Morse hopes that won’t be an issue.

“We’re not planning on losing, but lo and behold if something happens and we do lose, we’ve got to remember it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “We still have a bunch of goals that (we) set. We still want to be champions, and one or two losses isn’t going to define who we are. It’s like one or two bad plays doesn’t define you as a bad football player.”

So far the mood has been mostly positive. The Tigers have kept things loose throughout camp, giving different position groups a chance to show off their dance moves and nominating one another for the ALS ice bucket challenge. The offensive linemen have had their fun, making the decision to sport beards and mullets this season in honor of quarterback Maty Mauk’s supposed high-school hairstyles.

“We’ve always been kind of loose,” Morse said. “The offensive line’s always been kind of a different breed, and it’s kind of cool to see of the other position groups kind of take on the offensive line’s mentality, which is just kind of like, you know, ‘Just let it loose man. Who cares? You’ll be all right. Doesn’t matter what other people think of you, just be yourself.’”

Webb said the fun started in spring when the group entertainment of choice was singing instead of dancing.

“So we just kind of brought (dancing) in this camp,” he said. “Just loosened everybody up, make it more enjoyable.”

Does looseness come easier after a 12-2 season and a Southeastern Conference Eastern Division championship? Not if you check the newest AP rankings, which puts Missouri at No. 24.

“We just have to get right back to work,” Webb said. “I mean, as you can see, we haven’t earned any respect, so we’re just trying to get respect this year.”

Sasser and the receiving corps might be the group with the most to prove after the dismissal of Dorial Green-Beckham, the NCAA’s one-year suspension of Levi Copelin and the departures of L’Danian Washington and Marcus Lucas to graduation. What’s more, junior receivers Jimmie Hunt (hamstring) and Gavin Otte (high-ankle sprain) are currently battling injuries.

Sasser said he felt he was coming into his own as a leader last season, when he caught 26 passes for 361 yards.

“I felt that I had a few words that people were listening to,” he said, “and I knew kind of coming into this year that I would have to step up even more and be even more vocal and make sure I was doing the right thing to help try to lead this team, whether I was going to be a captain or not.”

Now he is a team captain, and he’s happy for the opportunity.

“To know that your teammates voted you that, that’s really a blessing and an honor, and I’m just really appreciative of my teammates for doing that,” he said. “And I just really have to come with it every day, just know that I’ve got guys counting on me to be ready for each practice and each game.”



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