COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri football hit double digits for practice days on Tuesday with practice No. 10 of preseason camp, a full-pads day heavy on 11-on-11 drills in just under two hours.
Part of Tuesday’s practice included series dedicated to what Barry Odom called “end of game situations.” The staff did its homework, based on history, to decide what kind of situations to practice.
“Everybody on the staff went through and researched the last couple of years on situations at the end of games on what we need to work on,” Odom said. “You can't script it perfectly but it causes the opportunity to have staff discussion and learning and teaching. And hopefully when those situations come up we have a calmness about us and we know we've been there.”
The last three years have provided plenty of casework for Odom’s staff to study when it comes to late-game situations in close games. Under Odom, the Tigers are 4-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including a 2-3 record last year, with losses against South Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl.
In the famous words of Arya Stark, "Not today." Instead of giving daily injury updates, Odom will address injuries once a week and not until after Thursday’s practice. A handful of players have sat out drills this week, but MU has asked that media not report who’s not practicing until Odom shares injury updates later this week. Stay tuned.
The Tigers appear to have three established outside receivers in Jalen Knox, Jonathan Nance and Kam Scott. Who becomes No. 4? Senior Alex Ofodile is in the running. But look out for freshman Maurice Massey, who continues to use his 6-3 frame and sticky hands to make difficult catches look routine. He snagged a high throw from Kelly Bryant in the back of the end zone on Tuesday and hung on while tumbling out of bounds. The rookie from Kirkwood High couldn’t join the team until the second session of summer classes, but he’s making up for any lost time with plays like this.
After struggling to build depth at wide receiver the first two years of Odom’s regime, the staff has recruited and developed a strong young core of players at the position with Knox, Dominic Gicinto, Scott, Massey and freshman C.J. Boone.
Speaking of receivers, the Tigers have some real weapons coming off the bench to play in the slot in Gicinto and Barrett Banister. Gicinto put together an impressive day in drills, making a couple diving grabs as he hurtled out of bounds. Either one could start for this team if not for senior Johnathon Johnson. Johnson is less than 900 receiving yards away from becoming MU's career leader - his single-season high is 737 yards - but MU's depth at the position might be the one thing that keeps him from breaking Danario Alexander's career record.
NECK AND NECK
One of the tightest competitions for a starting job is at strong safety, where Ronnell Perkins and Khalil Oliver are neck and neck for the No. 1 job. They’re so close, defensive coordinator Ryan Walters called them “1 and 1A.” No matter who starts, both are going to play and might split series unless one earns a more expanded role.
“We haven’t named the starter yet,” Walters said. “We’ve got them rotating in there with the 1s and 2s. They both are good at different things, so it’s really hard to tell who’s playing better at times. I would definitely see both of them getting a lot of playing time. There’s not a starter and a backup. Obviously, when we go out there for the first snap somebody has to go out there but throughout the course of the game I see both of them playing a lot.”
Look for more on the position competition in tomorrow’s print edition of the Post-Dispatch.
A quick refresher on Mizzou’s three-safety base defense: Perkins or Oliver will be the strong safety, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety position that lines up closer to the line of scrimmage alongside the two inside linebackers or out in space across from a slot receiver. Tyree Gillespie is the team’s top boundary safety. He plays a traditional deep safety role on the short side of the field. Joshuah Bledsoe is the free safety, also a deep safety position but on the far side (field side) of the defensive formation.