Campus Corner

MU’s Pinkel plans less hitting in practice to keep players healthier

Updated: 2013-07-16T23:42:32Z

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR

The Kansas City Star

— It appears Missouri’s preseason camp will be a little less grueling than it’s been in the past.

Speaking at the Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel, MU coach Gary Pinkel said the Tigers will curb the amount of hitting they do in August in an effort to keep players healthy heading into their second season in the SEC.

“Quite frankly, we’re making changes from a health standpoint,” Pinkel said. “We’re adjusting some things in practice, adjusting some conditioning we’re doing, adjusting some hitting we’re doing. I want a healthy team. I’ve had two years with the worst injuries we’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep this football team healthy, yet prepare to play at a high level.”

Pinkel’s decision comes on the heels of a disappointing 5-7 season in which the Tigers had seven of their top 10 offensive lineman go down with an injury at some point in the season. Throw in quarterback James Franklin’s injury-plagued year — not to mention the large number of injuries the Tigers suffered in 2011 — and Pinkel decided to make a change in hopes of keeping his players fresher.

“We’re not going to have any true two-a-days — we had five before,” Pinkel said. “I’m into recovery, now … I think that will help. We have very physical practices, but we’re going to back off our hitting. I think there’s a little bit of a parallel to some things that are happening in the NFL a little bit, too, to keep people healthy. Two years in a row with the most injuries you’ve ever had in 35 years of coaching, I want to do something to try to help that.”

Pinkel also spoke on a variety of topics Tuesday:

•  On the team’s 5-7 record in 2012:

“I’ve come off tough years before,” Pinkel said. “We’re all judged not when things go well, but when things are difficult. We came off a tough year. I like winning. I’m responsible for this football program. I was given this program in 2001 to build a great college football program so I want to get back on the winning track.

“It was a very difficult year, injury-wise. If I had done a better job, we’d have won a couple more games. I’m responsible for that, no one else is.”

•  On how the offense will look under new coordinator Josh Henson:

“We’ll let it unfold by itself, but we’ll probably use the tight end more at times. That depends on our personnel. I don’t want to talk about it. Just let it play itself out and see how it goes. We’re going to still run a spread offense, but there are a wide variety of spread offenses. I think we’ll run it different in a lot of ways.”

•  On the talent of this year’s team:

“Our skill players, as far as our running backs, our receivers and tight ends…are the best group we’ve had, potentially, since 2007-08. We’ve got some guys that can make plays, and we’ve got to distribute the ball, and that’s where the quarterback comes in. That’s why it’s so critical in our offense to be able to distribute the ball to the people that can make plays. That’s how it all works. Hopefully, August will be a great month for us. James is the starter going in, and we’ll just see how it unfolds and make a final decision in the middle of the month sometime. And maybe we won’t have to make a final decision, maybe it will just take care of itself. So we’ll see what happens.”

“We almost overcame that, a few plays here, a few plays there. It was probably the worst injury situation I’ve ever been a part of. We’re going to make some changes and I’m excited about that. Hopefully that will keep us healthy.”

•  On Franklin, who has apparently been showing a little more fire this summer :

“He’s got a little edge to him. I think he’s a great competitor who came off a very difficult year. He had more injuries and more things happen to him than any quarterback I’ve ever coached, and I’ve had a lot of NFL quarterbacks I’ve been fortunate enough to coach. And I’ve never seen a guy go through what he did physically. Not even close. And he battled and battled and battled and battled. I think you grow from these things, too. He’s more mature. He’s mentally tougher and there’s a lot of things you can learn about yourself when you’re going through adversity. That’s when greatness comes, when you overcome some adversity and turn it into a positive, and I think he’ll do that.”

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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