Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Live from Columbia, it’s Saturday morning.
After nine practices of fall camp, the Missouri football team will get some live situational gameplay under its belt when it hosts their first scrimmage at 7:30 a.m. today.
“Probably one of the biggest (scrimmages) we have the entire year, counting spring football, of getting reps and numbers in,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “We’re excited about that, and it’s going to be a total evaluation by position, of each player — by offense, by defense, by the kicking areas, all the specialty, returns, snappers, all the things we do.”
With plenty of young players vying for spots — especially on the defensive line and at wide receiver — taking advantage of live action at Faurot Field will be key.
“The depth will change, without question, next Monday, and that’s OK,” Pinkel said. “That’ll be good. For those that deserve to go up, we say, ‘Keep your job,’ and those that go down, we say, ‘Get your job back.’”
There is no shortage of spots for the taking. Missouri’s offensive line has plenty of experience but also plenty of wiggle room at right tackle and left and right guard. Kicker Andrew Baggett is currently listed as the top punter, but challengers such as scholarship freshman Corey Fatony will likely make a push to fill Christian Brinser’s shoes. DeSean Blair, Nate Brown and Wesley Leftwich hold the top wide-receiver slots, but with only eight catches among them, nothing is set in stone. Russell Hansbrough has a lock on the tailback starting job, but today’s scrimmage could impact the hierarchy of sophomore Ish Witter, junior Morgan Steward — who missed last season with a still-nagging hip injury — and JUCO transfer Chase Abbington as backups.
The remaining weeks of camp will also help determine how many freshmen spend the season on the depth chart and how many are redshirted.
“They all want to play as freshman, most all do, and I want them all to play,” Pinkel said. “I don’t want to bring a player in that doesn’t want to play as a freshman. You want competitors.”
Scrimmages also give a platform to walk-on players hoping to earn scholarships.
“I don’t talk about our numbers, but if we have one or two or three left, I always try to put somebody on (a one-year) scholarship,” Pinkel said. “… For that kid that always wanted to play at Mizzou, he’s got a good chance to do it, and it’s pretty cool.”
Pinkel said he expects to get the first- and second-stringers around 45-50 snaps. Missouri’s second scrimmage will be held Thursday and the final scrimmage Aug. 27 will bring camp to a close.