Thursday afternoon’s scrimmage concluded training camp for the 2009 Missouri Tigers.
Mizzou football’s training camp officially ended today as the Tigers played in their final scrimmage of the summer. With camp now over, the Tigers will have Friday off before turning all of their attention toward game-planning for Illinois. If you ask senior captain Sean Weatherspoon, however, he would confess that his mind has been focused on the opener in St. Louis for months.
“Coach may say that we don’t officially put 100-percent of our attention toward Illinois until this weekend, but trust me, I’ve been thinking about the Illini every time I step onto the field,” Weatherspoon said. “Whenever I stare across the line of scrimmage, all I can see is orange.”
Spoon certainly looked like he was visualizing an orange-clad offense during Thursday’s scrimmage as he delivered many punishing hits with aid from his recently upgraded physique. Spoon wasn’t the only Tiger that shined on defense, however. Rather, the entire defensive unit coalesced brilliantly and outplayed the offense throughout the entire day. With strong pressure up front, the defense was able to force the Missouri quarterbacks out of the pocket and into difficult throws, much to the delight of a hungry secondary.
“The [defensive line] is a great asset to our team,” sophomore safety Kenji Jackson said. “They put pressure on the quarterback so they rush throws so we DB’s can do our job and pick him off and make big hits.”
As a result, two passes were intercepted, one by Hardy Ricks and the other by freshman Andrew Wilson. Much of the quarterback pressure should be credited to Jacquies Smith, who had an excellent day in picking up a sack and recording multiple tackles for a loss.
Blaine Gabbert looked solid once again in the scrimmage and has proven this off-season that he has the ability to be an elite quarterback. Even though there was a heavy pass rush on Gabbert throughout the day, he demonstrated that he has the ability to make quick decisions and use his feet when necessary. Gabbert showed off his 4.5 speed with a number of scurries around the hashes. He rushed 5 times for 15 yards in the scrimmage. While he never broke a tremendously long run, he did an excellent job of evading defenders in the backfield and gaining enough yards to pick up first downs.
“Running with the ball is not something that I’m going to force too often,” Gabbert said. “But, whenever I find seams and do not see exactly what I want in coverage, then I am definitely going to try to pick up some yards on the ground.”
Mizzou’s receivers are talented and speedy enough to get open in just about any coverage, but if they aren’t open, Gabbert running should be a present danger on offense.
Missouri certainly has some work to do in preparation for Illinois, but overall, the mood after the scrimmage was positive.
“Overall, really good things out there,” Gary Pinkel said.
- When asked which young player impressed him most this off-season, senior wide receiver Danario Alexander said that De’Vion Moore really played well. Moore, who is the No.2 running back behind Derrick Washington, won the most improved offensive player award in the spring and will have a major role in both the air and ground attack this season.
- Blaine Dalton, who has been in the running to be the No. 2 quarterback, played terribly in the final scrimmage. Dalton looked flustered in each of his series and finished 5-15 for 18 yards with an interception. Jimmy Costello seems to have solidified himself as Blaine Gabbert’s backup.
- RS Freshman defensive end Aldon Smith, who was mentioned as being “unblockable” this spring, took around five reps as a defensive tackle during the scrimmage. This could be a sign that the Tiger coaching staff is experimenting with innovative ways to get Smith on the field as much as possible, especially on passing downs. Opposing offenses should be concerned if the Tigers are finding alternative methods to bolster their already stout defensive line.
- The Missouri punting controversy seemed to have cleared up a little during the scrimmage. Sophomore Matt Grabner outperformed senior Jake Harry during the practice as each one took reps kicking the football during punting situations. While most of Harry’s punts were low and spun awkwardly, Grabner’s boots consistently hit the roof inside Dan Divine Pavilion.
- True freshman receivers T.J. Moe and L’Damian Washington were on the field quite a bit throughout the day. Still no word on whether they will see the field this season. I’d put money on the fact that Moe sees time this year.
- Sophomore tackle Dan Hoch was held out of the scrimmage while still nursing his knee injury. However, he moved well while working one-on-one with a coach on the sideline.
- Linebacker Will Ebner was temporarily shaken up during the scrimmage, but has suffered no major injury.