Senior safety Ian Simon only made two tackles Thursday in Missouri’s second scrimmage of the fall camp.
But Simon wasn’t complaining after missing a week, including Saturday’s first scrimmage, with a strained hamstring.
“I’ve been full-go a couple days in practice, but this is my first actual live participation, actually hitting and all that,” Simon said. “It felt great. I felt like an animal had been let loose. I’d been pent up and hadn’t been able to hit anybody, so it felt great to be back out there with my teammates.”
Simon started last season at free safety and is penciled in as the starter at right safety as the Tigers adjust the defense under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom and new safeties coach Ryan Walters.
Missouri’s first-string defense allowed two touchdowns mostly because of allowing big plays in the passing game.
Drew Lock’s 49-yard pass to Justin Smith set up the first and Eddie Printz’s 52-yard strike down the middle to Emanuel Hall allowed the offense to score the scrimmage-winning touchdown on the final two-minute drill.
“That last drive down there, Eddie hit that long one, but we’re going to learn from that,” Pinkel said.
The Tigers’ defense was the backbone of a second straight SEC East division title last season and probably needs to be again for a chance at a three-peat.
In a rush
The pass rush was a concern entering fall camp, because Missouri lost its five best defensive linemen off last season’s squad.
Single-season sack king Shane Ray left early for the NFL Draft, while Markus Golden, Lucas Vincent and Matt Hoch all graduated.
Junior defensive tackle Harold Brantley, who projected as an All-SEC-type performer and was clearly the best and most experience returning lineman, won’t play this season either after suffering significant injuries in a June car wreck.
Missouri recorded nine sacks, four quarterback hurries and 17 tackles for a loss Thursday during the second scrimmage.
Sophomore defensive end Charles Harris had two of those sacks, but Missouri also got good pressure up the middle, including sacks from Rickey Hatley, Tyrell Jacobs and Adam Roland.
Justin Grava, who bounces all over the line, matched Harris’ two sacks.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m thrilled that the D-tackles are also working on their pass rush,” Harris said. “We’re having a lot of sacks from the D-tackles and guys are doing a great job getting to the quarterbacks as well.”
That’s particularly encouraging, because the Tigers keep things fairly vanilla for public scrimmages. There should be more opportunities to get after the quarterback through blitzes during the season.
If there’s anything that’s alarming through the first two scrimmages, it’s the lack of turnovers.
Missouri’s defense has yet to intercept a pass in 142 attempts and managed only one fumble recovery, on a backward pass that safety Thomas Wilson scooped up during the first scrimmage.
“It’s not something worrisome, but it’s definitely something we need to pay attention to,” Harris said. “Takeaways equal victory. That’s part of our team’s core values, so we definitely need to work on getting takeaways and stuff like that.”
Otherwise, the defense has been solid. There are more plays to be made, but it’s a good start.
“I don’t want to say we feel good, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Simon said. “We’re making the right plays, but we’ve got to make more of them. We’ve got to find ways to get more plays.”
New role for Newsom
Missouri hopes to use his speed and athleticism more against three- and four-receiver sets.
Newsom’s skills can be particularly beneficial against up-tempo offenses that limit the defense’s ability to substitute with their pace. He responded Thursday with a team-high seven tackles.
Freshman safety Cam Hilton continued his fall-camp push to earn a game-day roster spot by matching Newsom’s with seven tackles, including a team-high six solo stops.
Freshman linebacker Terez Hall finished with five tackles.
MU SCRIMMAGE NO. 2 FINAL STATS
Tackles (Solo-Asst): Cam Hilton 6-1, Donavin Newsom 2-5, Kenya Dennis 5-1, Terez Hall 4-1, Ronnell Perkins 2-3, Kentrell Brothers 1-4, Terry Beckner Jr. 4-0, Tyrell Jacobs 3-1, Logan Cheadle 2-2, Thomas Wilson 2-2.
Charles Harris 2-2, Nate Howard 0-4, Clarence Green 0-4, Justin Grava 3-0, Grant Jones 3-0, Aarion Penton 2-1, Josh Augusta 1-2, Rocel McWilliams 1-2, Joey Burkett 0-3, Adam Roland 2-0.
Franklin Agbasimere 2-0, T.J. Warren 2-0, Tavon Ross 1-1, Marcell Frazier 1-1, Ian Simon 1-1, Michael Scherer 1-1, Eddie Serrano 1-1, Eric Beisel 1-1, Rickey Hatley 1-1, Spencer Williams 1-1.
Walter Brady 0-2, Cortland Browning 0-2, Jacob Trump 0-2, Zane Jacoby 1-0, A.J. Logan 1-0, Brandon Lee 1-0, DeAndre McKenzie 1-0, Ferrod Gardner 1-0, John Gibson 1-0, Finis Stribling IV 1-0, Ed Cruz 0-1, Tyler Hanneke 0-1.
Sacks-Yards: Charles Harris 2-11, Justin Grava 2-11, Rocel McWilliams 1-8, Eddie Serrano 1-6, Tyrell Jacobs 1-5, Adam Roland 1-4, Rickey Hatley 1-1.
Tackles for loss-Yards: Charles Harris 2.5-13, Justin Grava 2-11, Kentrell Brothers 2-3, Rocel McWilliams 1-8, Eddie Serrano 1-6, Tyrell Jacobs 1-5, Adam Roland 1-4, Grant Jones 1-2*, Franklin Agbasimere 1-2, Eric Beisel 1-2.
Tavon Ross 1-1, Michael Scherer 1-1, Rickey Hatley 1-1, Donavin Newsom 0.5-1.
* Play resulted in a safety