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Injuries not a concern this year for Missouri ahead of season opener against Murray State

Updated: 2013-08-27T02:43:37Z

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR

The Kansas City Star

— When Missouri released its depth chart and notes in preparation for its season opener Saturday against Murray State, one thing stuck out like a sore thumb:

Not one player was listed on the injury report.

“I don’t think that’s happened since I’ve been here,” said offensive tackle Justin Britt, a fifth-year senior.

At the very least, Britt is darn sure that wasn’t the case last season. To kick off what turned out to be a miserable year, Missouri had seven players on its injury report entering the opener against Southeastern Louisiana, and things never really got better from there, as the Tigers suffered injuries everywhere and went 5-7.

“The less(injuries)you have, the better chance you have of being a good team,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

That’s why he decided to cut back on the physicality of camp this preseason. He eliminated two-a-days and scaled back the hitting, and the results, he says, are evident.

“For us, I think it worked out well,” Pinkel said. “Do I think that was the overriding factor? Not necessarily.”

However, Pinkel does think the lighter workload contributed to a more positive mindset for his players.

“I think it was a psychological (boost) just a little bit,” Pinkel said. “(Like) ‘Coach Pinkel made some changes, he wants to keep us healthy, he wants to keep us fresh.’”

Bottom line, Pinkel said he didn’t see the need to continue to do two-a-days, not in today’s day and age, where players are better conditioned than ever.

“Our players work out all year round,” Pinkel said. “They’re here all summer long. You don’t have to have two-a-days. I don’t think you need them. I think you just wear kids down.”

Offensive line coach Bruce Walker, who had four of his top eight linemen go down with injuries before last year’s season opener, agrees.

“People are slow to change, and the truth is those models that were built 25-30 years ago were built with more players on scholarship than the 85 we have now,” Walker said. “The other thing too is if you went back and looked at the average weights of players 25 years ago, the size and explosiveness of the athletes is a lot different now, and the collisions that take place out there are a lot more (impactful). We have more muscles, but I don’t know if we’re making tendons and stuff like that any better these days.”

Walker, however, vowed his line will still be physical, despite the decreased workload this preseason. Britt said the group is determined to prove him right.

“I don’t think it hurt our preparation,” Britt said. ‘I think guys are really healthy and we’re feeling fresh going into the first game than we have in the past.”

• Junior defensive tackle Matt Hoch (strained triceps), senior cornerback E.J. Gaines (strained patellar tendon) and sophomore center Evan Boehm (sore foot) sat out the final scrimmage of the preseason Thursday with various injuries, but Pinkel said everyone is expected to play Saturday.

• Pinkel said defensive tackle Josh Augusta and cornerback Aarion Penton will most likely be the only true freshmen to play this season. Both are listed at third-string at their respective positions on MU’s most recent depth chart.

• Missouri football officially received a commitment from Florida running back Trevon Walters on Monday. The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Walters, who attends Manatee High School, is listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals. He is the Tigers’ 19th verbal commitment for the Class of 2014 and their fifth from Florida.

• Missouri basketball landed a commitment from St. Louis-area shooting guard Ronnie Suggs on Sunday. The 6-foot-6 Suggs, a two-star senior prospect, according to Rivals, averaged 16.8 points per game and led Washington High School to a 17-9 record last season. He intends to attend prep school for a year before enrolling at Missouri in 2015.

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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