University of Missouri

January 2, 2014

Cotton Bowl notes: MU’s Britt eyes NFL future

During coach Gary Pinkel’s 13 seasons, only two Tigers offensive linemen — guard Tony Palmer in 2006 and tackle Colin Brown in 2009 — have been drafted into the NFL. Justin Britt hopes to buck that trend and is confident he will.

It’s easy to forget as well as Missouri senior left tackle Justin Britt has played, but he’s barely a year removed from a torn ACL.

Britt suffered the injury Nov. 3, 2012, trying to make a tackle after an interception in a loss at Florida. He shed 10 pounds this season hoping to lighten the load on that knee.

During coach Gary Pinkel’s 13 seasons, only two Tigers offensive linemen — guard Tony Palmer in 2006 and tackle Colin Brown in 2009 — have been drafted into the NFL.

Britt hopes to buck that trend and is confident he will, especially since his recovery has been ongoing.

“I feel faster than I was before (the injury), so I’m excited to get down there in training (for the NFL Combine) and see how fast I really am,” Britt said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Some analysts believe Britt might have to gain weight and move to guard to stick at the professional level.

“If I do that, I might have a belly then, but if someone asked me to do it, I’d sure do it,” Britt said.

Glowing praise for outgoing Gaines

Oklahoma State is understandably leery of Missouri’s pass rush, but first-year Cowboys offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said the Tigers’ success pressuring the quarterback goes hand in hand with its secondary’s blanket coverage.

Yurcich was particularly effusive about E.J. Gaines, a senior cornerback who graduated from Fort Osage.

“He’s a good cover guy,” Yurcich said. “He has good hips in transition and he never lets anything get over his head. At the same time, he can tackle really well, so he’s a complete-package guy.”

Meanwhile, Gaines is determined to end his college career in style. He graduated last month and exhausts his eligibility with the Cotton Bowl.

“It definitely has crossed my mind, and it’s going to be emotional playing my last game with these guys,” said Gaines, who said he is growing out his gold strip in his hair and plans to cut it off after the season. “But I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with a lot of these guys. They’re like a family to me now.”

Henson’s successful debut

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel reiterated his praise for first-year offensive coordinator Josh Henson.

Under Henson’s watch, the Tigers rank 16th in the nation in total offense, averaging 492.9 yards per game.

Balance has been a hallmark of Missouri’s season. The Tigers’ run game ranks 17th in the country at 236.5 yards per game and the passing game ranks 40th at 256.5 yards.

“Josh is the kind of guy, when he takes his lovely wife out, he’s probably drawing plays while he’s talking to her,” Pinkel said. “He’s just really into football, and he’s a very bright guy. He’s very talented and is a great communicator.”

Henson, who coached five seasons at Oklahoma State, had been at LSU for four years prior to joining Pinkel’s staff. That SEC experience made a difference for Missouri.

“It really did help us,” Pinkel said. “We also had (wide receivers coach) Pat Washington on our staff, who also coached at Tennessee and Kentucky.”

More on Big 12 vs. SEC

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was asked if he felt like the Cotton Bowl was a conference showdown with Missouri, a former Big 12 member which moved to the SEC two years ago.

“I guess from a media and a fan standpoint, I should say yes,” Gundy said.

He then proceeded to downplay any such significance.

“I may not be stimulating enough interest out there, but no matter who we’re playing, we ask our coaches and players to commit to preparation for every game,” Gundy said.

High school reunion?

Oklahoma State senior fullback Kye Staley, who graduated from Guthrie (Okla.) High School in 2008, is looking forward to reuniting with Missouri sophomore linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who graduated from Guthrie in 2011.

Of course, the meeting is likely to take place in a gap and won’t be overly friendly.

“We’re going to have a little trash talk, a little joking around,” Staley said. “It’s going to be a good time.”

Line of the week

Yurcich uttered the best line of the week when asked about becoming “Oklahomaized” after spending his career primarily in the Northeast.

“I probably eat a lot more beef,” Yurcich said. “I eat a lot more red meat now. That means I should be jogging more I think, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

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