Senior Marcus Murphy’s transition from tailback to slot receiver takes another step Tuesday when Missouri plays its first scrimmage of preseason training camp.
Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said last week that a decision on Murphy’s position hasn’t been made yet, but his role for the scrimmage has been clearly defined.
“I think he’ll stay at wide receiver most of the scrimmage,” Pinkel said Monday after practice.
Murphy has received positive reviews from sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk, senior wide receiver Bud Sasser and Missouri’s coaching staff for his work from the slot early in camp.
For his part, Murphy said he’s enjoying the new role, too.
“I’m not a big guy — 195 (pounds), 5 (feet) 9 — but I played receiver in high school and I really like to utilize my hands,” Murphy said. “That’s one of my best abilities, I think, catching the ball.”
Pinkel said he wouldn’t know for sure until meeting with his staff Monday afternoon how the reps would break down, but tailback is suddenly thin with sophomore running back Morgan Steward sidelined by a hip injury.
That should create a lot of opportunities behind junior Russell Hansbrough for junior Tyler Hunt and sophomore Miles Drummond, but also for freshmen Ish Witter and Trevon Walters.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a really big day,” Pinkel said. “It’s a live scrimmage and a lot of evaluation of personnel like it is every day, but certainly a scrimmage is kind of like a game-day type atmosphere, so there’s a little bit more weight on that practice tomorrow.”
Pinkel said he hopes to get the first-, second- and third-string units roughly 45 plays each.
“It’s just all situational, so it will be all over the field,” Pinkel said.
After being relatively healthy during the first week of camp, Missouri saw a spate in injuries during the weekend that will impact Tuesday’s first scrimmage of the fall camp.
Eight players are expected to miss the scrimmage.
“I can moan all I want, it isn’t going to matter,” Pinkel said. “The good news is everybody’s going to be fine. That’s the good news. What bothers you is if you get an injury where somebody’s out for the season.”
Starters Braylon Webb, a senior safety who had shoulder surgery after spring football, and Connor McGovern, a junior right tackle who strained a pectoral muscle a few days before camp, have been limited through training camp.
Neither is expected to play in the scrimmage.
Junior safety Cortland Browning (shoulder) and sophomore running back Morgan Steward (hip) also won’t suit for the scrimmage.
Two more projected starters — senior defensive tackle Matt Hoch (pectoral strain) and sophomore linebacker Donavin Newsom (hamstring) — were among four new additions to the injury list who are expected to play in the scrimmage.
Freshman linebacker Grant Jones (knee) and sophomore wide receiver Eric Laurent (hamstring) also have been ruled out.
Senior wide receiver Darrius White also was limited at Monday’s practice after he “tweaked an ankle,” but he was expected to be available for the scrimmage.
Old dog, new tricks
During Sunday’s photo day, Pinkel posed with each freshman as has become a Missouri custom.
“The reason we do it, is we send them back to their high schools and all the high school put them up,” Pinkel said. “It’s obviously good marketing for Mizzou.”
This year, for the first time, a freshman also asked Pinkel to pose for a selfie, a request to which he acquiesced.
“I noticed some of them were doing three, so I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m changing my expression in all three,’” Pinkel said. “I’m sitting there going, ‘My god, am I getting old.’”