HOOVER, Ala. — It appears Missouris preseason camp will be a little less grueling than its been in the past.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
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, were making changes from a health standpoint, Pinkel said. Were adjusting some things in practice, adjusting some conditioning were doing, adjusting some hitting were doing. I want a healthy team. Ive had two years with the worst injuries weve ever had since Ive been coaching, and were going to do everything we can to keep this football team healthy, yet prepare to play at a high level.
Pinkels 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 Franklins 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.
Were not going to have any true two-a-days we had five before, Pinkel said. Im into recovery, now I think that will help. We have very physical practices, but were going to back off our hitting. I think theres 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 youve 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 teams 5-7 record in 2012:
Ive come off tough years before, Pinkel said. Were all judged not when things go well, but when things are difficult. We came off a tough year. I like winning. Im 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, wed have won a couple more games. Im responsible for that, no one else is.
• On how the offense will look under new coordinator Josh Henson:
Well let it unfold by itself, but well probably use the tight end more at times. That depends on our personnel. I dont want to talk about it. Just let it play itself out and see how it goes. Were going to still run a spread offense, but there are a wide variety of spread offenses. I think well run it different in a lot of ways.
• On the talent of this years team:
Our skill players, as far as our running backs, our receivers and tight ends are the best group weve had, potentially, since 2007-08. Weve got some guys that can make plays, and weve got to distribute the ball, and thats where the quarterback comes in. Thats why its so critical in our offense to be able to distribute the ball to the people that can make plays. Thats how it all works. Hopefully, August will be a great month for us. James is the starter going in, and well just see how it unfolds and make a final decision in the middle of the month sometime. And maybe we wont have to make a final decision, maybe it will just take care of itself. So well see what happens.
We almost overcame that, a few plays here, a few plays there. It was probably the worst injury situation Ive ever been a part of. Were going to make some changes and Im excited about that. Hopefully that will keep us healthy.
• On Franklin, who has apparently been showing a little more fire this summer :
Hes got a little edge to him. I think hes a great competitor who came off a very difficult year. He had more injuries and more things happen to him than any quarterback Ive ever coached, and Ive had a lot of NFL quarterbacks Ive been fortunate enough to coach. And Ive 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. Hes more mature. Hes mentally tougher and theres a lot of things you can learn about yourself when youre going through adversity. Thats when greatness comes, when you overcome some adversity and turn it into a positive, and I think hell do that.