Super-massive Mizzou post: scrimmage reactions and conclusions
The interior of Missouri’s defensive line raised eyebrows among the media in attendance Tuesday. The defensive ends won plenty of 1-on-1s with the offensive tackles, as expected, but the team’s brute strength, quickness and depth on the interior may be the most positive sign of the scrimmage.
The offense sputtered overall. Maty Mauk went through a stretch completing just 3-of-9 passes, according to the Columbia Tribune. None of the quarterbacks operated in a clean pocket. Again according to the Tribune, Russell Hansbrough and Darius White get more of the blame than Mauk for the two turnovers by the starting offense.
Missouri lost most all of its best defenders from 2013 and always scores points in coach Gary Pinkel’s system. Given the choice of a mediocre day by one or the other, I have to believe the Tigers’ coaches and fans prefer the offense stumble a bit, given the general confidence in its ability.
Mauk put the scrimmage in perspective, reminding us the entire purpose is to adjust to game speed and do some self-evaluation.
“(This scrimmage) is something that we needed,” Mauk said, according to the Star. “The main thing is it’s not scripted, so we’re not going out there knowing what’s going on. It’s more game-like, and that’s what you need.”
THREE BIG QUESTIONS (AND SOME ANSWERS)
1 . Who will inherit the backup quarterback role?
Corbin Berkstresser and Eddie Printz completed just more than 50 percent of their passes, but didn’t get much chance to separate themselves Tuesday.
The defensive line applied constant pressure. According to the Tribune, Printz took 23 snaps with the second-team offense and Berkstresser took 21.
“If the coaches could tell any separation between the two, they’re far more perceptive than I am,” David Morrison wrote.
Pinkel also weighed in: “What we try to do is see if they’re managing the game right. Are they getting rid of the ball, not taking sacks? You can only do what you can do. You can’t be Superman back there and create things that can’t happen.”
Saturday Down South, a pro-beard group in addition to writing about SEC football, appreciated this salvo from Printz.
Printz said the biggest different between quarterbacks in the battle to back up Mauk is Berkstresser’s inability to grow a beard. #Mizzou
— Tod Palmer (@todpalmer) August 12, 2014
2. What will Marcus Murphy’s role look like?
Murphy entered the fall as the team’s No. 2 running back, but practiced with the receivers in what coach Gary Pinkel characterized as a temporary exercise. Reports out of Columbia then indicated that Murphy’s move to the slot could be more permanent. He caught four passes for 16 yards in Tuesday’s scrimmage, often going into motion out of the slot pre-snap. Murphy also carried the ball once. Pinkel then told reporters Murphy will return to practicing at running back for at least few days.
At this point, I’d expect Murphy to get more receptions than carries, at least early in the year. But it’s unlikely he’ll play exclusively at receiver. If there are injuries and/or the depth at running back doesn’t perform, Missouri always can increase the dosage of Murphy out of the backfield. And for his apparent skill set in terms of hands and open-field ability, Murphy’s yards per catch are pedestrian thus far in his college career, so there’s always the remote possibility that Pinkel scales back his opportunities in the passing game.
Murphy’s precise role is a fluid concept. But, as Tuesday’s scrimmage indicated, the Tigers intend to throw his direction regularly and occasionally hand him the football.
3. Will the tight ends be more involved in the passing game?
The answer to this question is yes by default after Missouri tight ends combined for single-digit receptions in 2013.
Sean Culkin, Jason Reese and Clayton Echard combined for eight catches and 92 receiving yards Tuesday. But it appeared the tight ends would have at least some involvement in the passing game late into fall camp last season, so we can’t draw a firm conclusion from those numbers.
If you sat down and made a list of the best pass-catching options in 2013, no tight end would’ve made the Top 5, nor would there be much discussion about it. That’s no longer the case. For that reason, expect the tight ends to inherit at least an incremental amount of additional targets.
“I think you’ll see some more of (us catching passes), honest opinion,” Culkin said, according to the Tribune. “Not that last year was a bad year, it’s just our role was different.”
Translation: Sure, we’ll do our jobs and block. But c’mon. We can catch, too, and we want to be fed now and again.
Is it too stale to make a Charlie Sheen reference here? It’s way to stale. Moving on…
DT Josh Augusta: Matt Hoch sat out the scrimmage with a strained pectoral, and Augusta took full advantage. Officially, he registered one “sack” (in quotation marks because it amounts to a two-hand touch) and broke up a pass. Word from camp was that he’d put on some weight and clearly he looked larger than the listed 300 pounds, but he picked Tuesday to reveal this nugget.
Mizzou D-tackle Josh Augusta says he weighs 330 but feels lighter, quicker because body fat down to 28 %
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) August 12, 2014
“They’re so focused on Big Josh — he’s a big target — (Lucas Vincent) and Josh are just humongous targets, and they’re so strong and so fast,” freshman defensive end Charles Harris said, according to the Columbia Tribune. “And (the offense is) so focused on them and paranoid about what they’re going to do in the middle … it makes me and (Marcus Loud’s) job so much easier.”
He may command double teams this season and proved he deserves a share of the snaps even when Hoch is healthy.
DT Lucas Vincent: “Defensive line sets tone in Missouri’s first scrimmage,” the Kansas City Star headline reads. Judging by my Missouri Twitter feed, the consensus among those observing the scrimmage was that the defensive line overwhelmed every other unit Tuesday. The Star, the Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all lauded Vincent on Tuesday.
His two most notable plays included a sack wiped out by a hands-to-the-face penalty and a run play. He sent Miles Drummond “spinning like a helicopter” in the backfield, according to the Star.
“They call me ‘The Savage,’ and he’s been trying to make himself a Savage too,” Markus Golden said. “I told him, ‘You’re a Savage in training,’ but it seems like he turned on a switch this camp. Lucas Vincent is a beast.”
CB Kenya Dennis: The junior has three years to play two seasons after transferring from Hinds Community College. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears he’s slowly but surely gained the confidence of the coaching staff. Dennis picked off Maty Mauk on Tuesday, but by all accounts, he did it by beating White in a 1-on-1 matchup down the right sideline. He also smacked running back Ish Witter on a third-down swing pass. It wasn’t a perfect day for Dennis, who also got burned at least once, but he did enough to warrant attention from the coaching staff and is on his way to solidifying himself as an important nickelback and reserve cornerback.
(As an aside, for everyone claiming the Missouri receivers will be just as good in 2014, allowing a JUCO transfer to intercept a jump ball downfield isn’t happening with L’Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham or Marcus Lucas. White is 6-foot-3 and needs to protect Mauk on those kinds of throws, which incidentally the quarterback thrived on in 2013.)
RBs Trevon Walters and Ish Witter: Walk-on Tyler Hunt rushed for a 24-yard touchdown and is a reliable option. But with Murphy at receiver and Morgan Steward (hip) sidelined, the freshmen got valuable carries with the first, second and third-team offenses. Valuable for their development, of course, but perhaps moreso to the coaches evaluating them.
Walters got most of his yardage bouncing outside the tackles, nearly breaking 100 yards on just 14 carries. Witter, meanwhile, caught a team-high five passes out of the backfield and averaged a respectable 5.0 yards per carry.
I have an educated guess that Walters is slightly ahead of Witter right now and that if it started tomorrow, he’d enter the season as the No. 3 back behind Steward, assuming Murphy is listed at receiver. But there’s a good chance neither of these players will redshirt. They hardly dissuaded Pinkel with their performance Tuesday.
- Placekicker Andrew Baggett had a wobbly day, missing to the right from 34 and 32 yards to finish the scrimmage 3-of-5. The Tribune also reported he missed short and right on a 40-yard attempt in warmups.
- Senior linebacker Darvin Ruise made a team-high two tackles for loss and also jolted into Witter on a short fourth-down pass. Ruise apparently still needed to lose seven pounds as of last week, if what he told the media accurately reflects the thinking of the coaches, but it’s critical that he play a role this season on defense since he’s one of the most equipped linebackers.
- Receiver Gavin Otte suffered a high-ankle sprain Tuesday, the only injury I’ve seen reported following the scrimmage.
- Walters also returned punts and “looks like he could be the alternative to Marcus Murphy for that role,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- In addition to Augusta filling in for Hoch, Clarence Green played linebacker in place of Donavin Newsom (hamstring), Anthony Sherrils played safety in place of Braylon Webb (shoulder) and Taylor Chappell operated with the starting offensive line in place of right tackle Connor McGovern (pec).
- Safety Cortland Browning (shoulder), linebacker Grant Jones (knee) and receiver Eric Laurent (hamstring) also did not participate in the scrimmage.