Missouri’s pass rush was a question mark entering fall camp after so much attrition from last season, but the Tigers managed at least six sacks, including at least three from the first-team defense, in each scrimmage.
Sophomore defensive ends Charles Harris and Marcell Frazier each had sacks for the first-team defense Thursday during the third and final scrimmage of fall camp. Defensive backs Kenya Dennis and Aarion Penton also picked up sacks on blitzes.
“That’s something we pride ourselves on, D-Line Zou,” Harris said. “We have a lot of guys, especially on the interior — Rickey Hatley, A.J. Logan, Josh Augusta — that are really all starting to pick it up … and get to the quarterback. That’s something we’ve all got to do.”
Redshirt freshman defensive end Rocel McWilliams, freshman defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and junior defensive end Justin Grava also added sacks on Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, sophomore safety Thomas Wilson and junior cornerback John Gibson led the defense with five tackles a piece.
Abeln earns first-team reps
Senior center Evan Boehm found junior quarterback Maty Mauk on the sideline after the first-string offense was done for the day on Thursday.
One of the first observations Boehm shared was that he thought sophomore Alec Abeln, who split the first-team offense’s four series with senior Taylor Chappell at left guard, played well.
Mauk hadn’t even noticed the difference, Abeln’s performance was so smooth.
“That was my first time really realizing he was up there, so he did a really good job,” Mauk said.
Missouri’s offensive line seems set at four spots with Boehm, senior Connor McGovern at left tackle, senior Mitch Hall at right guard and sophomore Nate Crawford at right tackle.
Abeln appears to be vying for a starting role with a late surge in camp.
“He’s just a guy that works hard and he’s consistent,” Mauk said. “You’re not going to see him come in and say, ‘I’m going to take this play off.’ He’s a guy that, in the head, is mentally right and he’s going to give everything he has.”
Baggett back in action
Senior kicker Andrew Baggett returned to action after missing a week with back spasms and, aside from pushing a 43-yard field goal inches wide on his first kick, seemed fine.
“I was really excited to get to start practicing this week,” said Baggett, a Lee’s Summit North graduate. “I was kind of bummed missing the (previous two) scrimmages. I’ve never done that before, so I really wanted to come out and do well.”
Baggett’s absence was notable as junior Nick Coffman and sophomore Luke Jackson struggled during the first scrimmage.
Then Coffman suffered a groin injury, but Baggett appears fit for duty again ahead of the Sept. 5 opener against Southeast Missouri at Memorial Stadium.
“I left one hanging, but I thought for really the third day kicking in two weeks it was pretty good,” Baggett said.
Baggett said the repetitiveness of the kicking motion has led to back tightness before.
“It’s not really been this bad,” Baggett said.
He doesn’t believe the injury will linger into the season.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” said Baggett, who said if last week’s spasms had flared up during the season he would have let junior Nick Coffman kick.
Punter gig comes down to wire
Freshman Corey Fatony appears to have an edge in the race to succeed Christian Brinser as Missouri’s starting punter.
He averaged 48.6 yards on eight punts during Thursday’s scrimmage, besting junior Dayton Balvanz, a transfer from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College, by close to 10 yards per punt.
But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel won’t tip his hand.
“They’re both very capable,” he said. “They’ve got very strong legs. Again, those guys, it’s all numbers and certainly how you respond under pressure.”
Pinkel said he’ll inform all players where they stand as far as redshirts Friday afternoon and the depth chart will be posted Saturday morning for the team to see.
So, Fatony and Balvanz must wait a few more days.
Five players sat out Thursday’s scrimmage, including sophomore tight end Jason Reese (right knee sprain) and wide receivers Wesley Leftwich (right knee sprain) and J’Mon Moore.
Junior wide receiver Eric Laurent (viral infection), redshirt freshman running back Trevon Walters (torn right ACL) and sophomore cornerback Anthony Hines (right foot injury) also sat out.
Freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, who suffered a right ankle injury in Missouri’s first scrimmage, had surgery last Friday to repair a high-ankle sprain. There is no timetable for his return.
MU finalizes 2016 schedule
Missouri finalized its 2016 schedule on Thursday, announcing a Sept. 24 home game against Delaware State.
The Tigers also confirmed an Oct. 22 game against Middle Tennessee State, which the Raiders announced Wednesday evening.
Missouri’s non-conference slate next season also includes a Sept. 3 season opener at West Virginia and a Sept. 10 home game against Eastern Michigan.
“We’re very pleased to have the 2016 nonconference schedule finalized and certainly thank everyone we’ve worked with to make this happen,” said MU executive associate athletic director Bryan Maggard, who oversees football scheduling for Mizzou.
“We also want to make sure and thank our fans for being patient as we work through future scheduling challenges related to conference transition. We feel that this is a very exciting schedule for our fans and program.”