Defense has dominated Missouri’s training camp so far, winning nearly every practice and beating the offense Tuesday during the camp’s first scrimmage.
“The defense has been winning more than the offense, but it goes down to one or two plays at the very end,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “The defense has been making plays.”
Quarterback Maty Mauk and the revamped offense get another crack at winning the black jerseys on Saturday, when the second scrimmage takes place at 7:15 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
It will be moved inside Devine Pavilion if there’s rain.
Pinkel called the offense’s performance Tuesday erratic, something he hopes has changed in the last four days.
“You just want to see consistency,” Pinkel said. “You want to see that we’re better, and you want to see consistency.”
Missouri’s defense allowed only two touchdowns — both to the first-team offense — during the initial scrimmage, but Pinkel still believes the pieces are in place for a potent attack.
“There’s a lot of experience on that offensive football team,” he said. “A bunch of those guys played a year ago, a significant amount of time. We can be a real good offensive team. Offense is always a little more difficult with continuity. The breakdowns are much more significant on offense than they are on defense in terms of just executing a simple play.”
The first-, second- and third-string units each are expected to get approximately 35 plays Saturday in a variety of situational settings.
Missouri’s staff hasn’t made any decisions on which freshmen might play this season and which will redshirt, but Saturday’s scrimmage will be important in that regard.
“We’ll probably narrow it down a little bit, but we’ll go also through next Thursday, too, as we start our game preparation,” Pinkel said.
The Tigers’ third and final scrimmage of training camp is at 11 a.m. Thursday, but Pinkel said he expects several true freshmen to make be a factor during the 2014 season.
“We’ll make some final decisions, but we already have circled some guys that we think are very close to doing that,” Pinkel said. “There’s always three to five roughly.”
Running backs Trevon Walters and Ish Witter played extensively in the first scrimmage and Pinkel previously has indicated one or both will be expected to contribute this season.
Wide receivers Nate Brown, Lawrence Lee and Thomas Richard made a handful of plays in Tuesday’s scrimmage and that’s perceived as a position where freshmen might be needed immediately.
Blue Valley West graduate Mike Fairchild, who has been working with the second string at offensive tackle, and Lee’s Summit West graduate Logan Cheadle, who has impressed at cornerback, got a jump start by enrolling for the spring semester.
Sophomore cornerback John Gibson is the latest camp injury.
Gibson injured a hamstring and isn’t expected to play in Saturday’s scrimmage. He is one of three projected starters who’ll spectate rather than participate.
Starting defensive tackle Matt Hoch (strained pectoral) and sophomore linebacker Donavin Newsom (hamstring) also have been ruled out.
However, junior right tackle Connor McGovern and senior strong safety Braylon Webb, who missed Tuesday’s scrimmage, will be available.
The same is true for junior safety Cortland Browning and freshman linebacker Grant Jones, who also sat out Tuesday.
Sophomore running back Morgan Steward (hip), senior wide receiver Gavin Otte (high ankle sprain) and sophomore wide receiver Eric Laurent (hamstring/broken finger) also won’t play.
Otte was injured in Tuesday’s scrimmage when his right leg was rolled up on a tackle, while Laurent had surgery to repair a broken finger as he waits for his hamstring to heal.
Freshman linebacker Brandon Lee was a limited participant in Friday’s practice with a bruised leg, but he is expected to play in the scrimmage.
Soaked for charity
Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after Friday’s practice. Linebackers Michael Scherer and Donavin Newsom did the honors: