The Missouri Tigers held their final scrimmage prior to next weekend's Black and Gold Game. The Tigers went through an approximately 40-play per unit workout. PowerMizzou.com has the report.
For much of the spring, Missouri's passing game had plenty of completions, but not a ton of long plays. In Saturday's second scrimmage, that changed. Brandon Gerau, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson all had receptions of longer than 20 yards, and all were thrown by starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"It's all about taking what the defense gives you," Gabbert said. "When they start biting on the hitches, you've got to take the deep ball."
Last Saturday, Gabbert completed 27 passes for 237 yards. This morning, he had 236 yards, but took only 17 completions to get them. The ledger included a 47-yard catch and run by Jackson and a 50-yard touchdown to Kemp.
"We're gonna need an extra guy out there and I'm just working hard," Jackson said. "The experience I got last year, it's made the whole defense seem slower. As you keep playing, the defense slows down. When I first got here, college football seemed so fast, but that experience I got did slow it down and help me become a better receiver."
"I think Jerrell's really making a lot of plays and it's nice to see that," Gary Pinkel said. "That experience of him playing as a true freshman, all that experience, it's the same for Wes Kemp too, Gerau. I think Jerrell is trying to take his play to a higher level. In our offense, you need guys to make plays...and the more you can get out there on the perimeter, the better you're going to be."
Of course, for every positive, there is a negative when the team is in a scrimmage. What was good for the offense in a 45-37 win could also be viewed as a negative for the defense.
"The big thing if you want to be a good defensive football team, you just can't give up big plays. Can't do it," Pinkel said. "Good teams don't give up big plays. We had problems with that a little bit last year and we saw a little of that today."
While the defense struggled at times, one position seems to be consistently jumping out on that side of the ball.
"We've probably got the best defensive end group we have probably ever had since we've been here," Pinkel said.
The group is led by current starters Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith. But redshirt freshman Aldon Smith is making a strong statement that he could grab one of the two starting spots as well.
"It doesn't really matter who starts," Aldon Smith said.
That said, the Tigers may have three players good enough to get the nod.
"I think he's got a lot of ability. I think he's got to learn to do it every play," Pinkel said of Aldon Smith. "He did not play last year and the difference between him and Jacquies is Jacquies has been doing it all the time and has been coached the whole year. But you see spurts from Aldon of being a high-level guy."
*The punting looked much better than it did in last weekend's scrimmage. Solid distance and hangtime. The change in wind from last Saturday has to be a factor there.
*Brandon Gerau made the highlight catch of the day. With Jeff Gettys draped all over him, Gerau went up and made a one-handed grab for a gain of about 25 yards. It reminded a few people on hand of catches made by Chase Coffman the last four years. Gerau's performance is also drawing comparisons to that of Tommy Saunders, a one-time walk-on who ended up as one of the ten most prolific pass catchers in school history.
"I told Tommy (Gerau) looks a lot better," Pinkel joked. "You know what? If Gerau is as good as Tommy Saunders, we're going to be very, very lucky and very fortunate. There's some resemblance, there really is."
*Derrick Washington only had seven carries, but one of the early ones went for nearly 20 yards as he broke multiple tackles and busted outside. I had a chance to speak to Washington's father in the stands. I remarked that Derrick looked pretty good. "He looks okay," dad answered. I think pops has higher standards than I do.
*Lost in the talk of the two Smiths, Brian Coulter is having a very good spring. He had one play where he pressured the quarterback on a screen, turned around and chased down the receiver for a very short game. I would say defensive end is the best position on this team.
*Will Ebner made his usual highlight plays. He had one big hit on a short reception, but also added an interception of Ashton Glaser. It was a pass over the middle that Ebner had to reach out and grab with both hands. Honestly, it's not a catch most linebackers would make.
*Other interceptions came from Kevin Rutland, who I think is making a strong case to be a starter, and Charles Brockman. Trey Hobson jumped an out route by Gabbert and nearly got a pick, and Munir Prince dropped one when Dalton hit him in the chest.
*In the two-minute drill, the defense had the edge, stopping all three of the first attempts by the offense. Gabbert did lead the offense to a 28-yard field goal on his second attempt, getting a first down on an offsides call and hitting DeVion Moore for 35 yards on two catches.
*The quarterback race just is not a race. There is no question that Gabbert is the No. 1 guy, even if nobody will come right out and say it. Pinkel, again, was asked about the competition as a whole. Here's what he said:
"Costello's, overall, had a pretty good spring. I think Blaine Gabbert's had a pretty good spring. The two freshmen, they're in a different world out here right now. They're going to be fine. I've seen it many times. When we'll see them do really well is in August. They'll finish real well in the next week or two, then they'll work all summer and they'll come back in August and go through it all again and they're very good prospects. They're getting, I call it, getting dirty out there a little bit. Every quarterback I've ever been around has gone through the same thing. That's also part of their growth. That's how you get better at that position. You don't just go out and everything works out good. That's not how it happens."
*The kickers are one of the more interesting competitions to watch. After hitting all five of his field goals last week, Grant Ressel missed three of four. Tanner Mills has made seven of ten in the two scrimmages combined, while Ressel is 6-for-9. The one thing the Tigers don't have is a sure thing from 45 yards and beyond. Jeff Wolfert wasn't perfect from that distance, but he was very reliable. Mills has the leg, getting plenty of distance on a 50-yarder, but missing wide left. Ressel came up about two yards short, but was on line, from the same distance. This is a two-horse race and the most consistent guy will win.
The Tigers return to the practice field on Tuesday at 3:30 and PowerMizzou.com will once again have complete coverage.
PowerMizzou.com's spring football coverage is sponsored by Pension & Benefits Live. Jesse Cox (stljesstx) and Tim Killday (Killer) would appreciate the opportunity to be a resource to you for company benefits and/or individual health and life insurance needs.