After nearly a week awaiting the NCAA’s final sign-off, Missouri junior defensive tackle Walter Palmore started practicing Saturday and the impact has immediate.
“My early impression is that he’s going to be a guy that can help us, give us some run presence inside and be a guy that can hold the point and keep the ball from gashing up the field,” Tigers defensive line coach Brick Haley said. “I’m excited about that.”
Palmore’s debut on the practice field comes at a perfect time. The Eastern Arizona College transfer is one of four junior college transfers Mizzou brought in along the defensive line, but only one — end Nate Anderson — was eligible at the start of camp.
With sophomore Markell Utsey suffering a shoulder injury at Saturday’s practice, working Palmore into the mix was a most-welcome addition.
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“When you look at the board and have all the bodies there at that spot, you think you’re in pretty good shape,” second-year Tigers coach Barry Odom said. “Then, when you have Markell go down and a couple other things go on, you don’t have as many guys.”
Palmore is listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds on MU’s roster, but he arrived much bigger than that for training camp.
“Having Walter out there, he’s got a chance — he’s 335 pounds or so before breakfast — so he’s got a chance of being really good inside,” Odom said. “Not only is he big and can two-gap some things, but he’s got some short-space quickness that he’s going to make some plays.”
Palmore’s impressive size wasn’t the only thing that caught his teammates’ attention.
“Coming in he already knew the plays,” senior defensive end Jordan Harold said. “It’s crazy, but he came in right away and had the plays down. If you asked him a question in the meeting room about czertain plays or formations, he would get it right. He knew the playbook pretty good despite not being here very long and only watching, so he’s been good out there with the bullets flying already.”
Two other defensive line transfers from junior college remain sidelined.
Junior Malik Young, who was Palmore’s teammate at Eastern Arizona College, has yet to arrive as he awaits NCAA clearance.
Junior Rashad Brandon from ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., also awaits NCAA clearance.
He practiced in the spring, but has been held out of the first week of training camp.
From the outset, Odom’s tenure at Missouri has been about toughness.
The team motto since his arrival — “Toughness wins” — encapsulates his football mindset, which he hopes transfers to his team.
That didn’t exactly happen last year, but there are signs of a tougher team in 2017.
“We go 15 plays of inside run — the box defensively against up front offensively — double tight, one-back, two-back stuff in there,” Odom said. “It’s the most physical inside run that I’ve seen in a really long time (Monday) and (Saturday). That’s enjoyable to watch.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Markell Utsey and sophomore wide receiver Justin Smith were sidelined Monday as Missouri’s training camp resumed after an NCAA-mandated off day on Sunday.
Odom said Utsey strained a shoulder Saturday at practice and that, while he’d improved, the staff opted not to rush him back.
“Everything checked out …,” Odom said. “But we’ll take it slow getting him back and I’d anticipate him doing a little more (Tuesday).”
Smith also was hurt Saturday when he smacked a knee on the ground after making “a nice catch” in practice.
The knee swelled up — a problem he encountered a few times last season — and may need to be drained.
“We couldn’t get enough swelling out for him to have a productive practice … but I don’t expect those guys to miss much time,” Odom said.
Junior linebackers Kaleb Prewett (hip flexor) and Terez Hall (lower leg) wore red pullovers, signifying limited contact at practice — though both took part in all drills during the portion of practice media was permitted to watch.
“We’ve got to learn how to practice when you’ve got a red pullover on,” Odom said. “You’re supposed to be protected a little bit, but they’re out there trying to run through guys. We’ll learn from that, but we were glad they were back out there today because they’re both really good athletes and have a chance to help us a great deal defensively.”