The Missouri Tigers returned to the practice field without their head coach on Friday morning. Gary Pinkel missed just his second practice in nine years at Mizzou because he was in New York for a promotional appearance with the Insight Bowl, ringing the opening bell for NASDAQ.
*Perhaps the most lively part of the Tigers' first bowl practices came during defensive line drills. Bart Coslet took exception to something Brad Madison said or did and went after his teammate a couple of times. Fights are always the most talked about part of practices. Punches were thrown, but no damage seemed to be done and Craig Kuligowski got both players back on task relatively quickly.
*During offensive line drills, juniors Dan Hoch and Jacquies Smith continued a season-long matchup that has been entertaining to watch. On the first run through, Hoch stonewalled Smith, but the next time around, Smith used a straight power rush to go right through Hoch. Very evenly matched players all season long and December is no exception.
*Lucas Vincent got the best of Travis Ruth, showing some of the promise many have talked about from the redshirt freshman. Ruth is in competition with Justin Britt to take over the starting center job from Tim Barnes. That's a battle that could last well in 2011 fall camp.
*Darvin Ruise made a nice play, batting down a pass while covering Jared Culver downfield. Culver is hardly the Tigers' fastest back, but Ruise showed nice ability on the play.
*Kevin Rutland is still wearing a red bib in practice, but did a nice job staying stride for stride with the speedy Rolandis Woodland on a deep route. Good to see Rutland back at practice after sitting out the first three.
*E.J. Gaines knocked down a pass down the left sideline. I continue to believe Gaines will start alongside Kip Edwards at corner next season.
*Bud Sasser continued to impress, making a great mid-air adjustment to cut in front of a defensive back, grab a pass out of midair and run for a long gain. Sasser continues to stand out.
Marcus Lucas made a really nice grab, extending on a pass over the middle. I've been very impressed with Lucas' hands after he seemed to have some trouble with drops in fall camp.
*Play of the Day: I hesitate to continue to highlight the young receivers so much, but Jimmie Hunt makes it hard to ignore him. One a slip screen over the middle, Hunt made a catch, bounced off his own blocker and eluded four or five defenders for a 30-yard gain. Later, Hunt made a great adjustment on a Tyler Gabbert pass over the middle to make the catch in traffic and blazed upfield for a would-be touchdown. It's going to be really tough to keep Hunt, Sasser and Lucas out of the rotation next year I think.
*Missouri will return to the practice field at 9 a.m. Saturday morning for the first practice that focuses mostly on the first-teamers and the Iowa Hawkeyes. PowerMizzou.com will have a full report.
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