During the team portion of practice, Missouri worked some two-minute drills Wednesday on field three, which is the farthest of the Kadlec Athletic Fields from the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex.
It’s also the one with a set of narrowed field-goal uprights, which put a greater premium on kicking-game accuracy.
“We narrowed them for some sight-line training that we’re trying to do and those guys have done a good job,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said.
That was an area of profound struggle for Mizzou last season and Odom, who coached special teams last season, accepted his share of the blame.
“Last year, I didn’t do a good job in a lot of areas, and that was one of them obviously,” Odom said. “That’s like the most elementary statement ever. We missed the extra point and my coaching point was, ‘Hey, make it between those two yellow uprights.’ ”
Jonathan Rutledge remains the Tigers’ special teams analyst, but Odom also bolstered his support staff with the addition of Dave Ungerer, a 29-year coaching veteran with extensive experience as a special teams coordinator.
“We’ve got Coach Rut and our new coach, Ungerer, who’s very technical and I am too, so I appreciate that,” McCann said.
In hindsight, he’s not surprised Odom was unable to diagnose last season’s woes — a 6-for-12 performance on field goals, four missed, and inconsistent kickoffs — and offer workable solutions.
“He doesn’t know kicking,” McCann said. “He was a linebacker.”
Reinvigorated for 2017, McCann insists he’s put those struggles behind him.
“My confidence has rebounded and I feel better, because going through it made me twice as mentally strong,” McCann said. “I know what the bottom is and all I can do is go up. … I don’t want to go through that again.”
He also laughed when told Odom said the narrowed uprights were new this season.
“Those have always been there,” McCann said. “Andrew Baggett actually got them put in there, so they’ve been there for a while. It really helps.”
Baggett persuaded Mizzou’s staff to add the narrowed uprights during the team’s run of back-to-back SEC East championships in 2013 and 2014 — though McCann did allow that it was unusual to run through two-minute drills on that field during the team period.
First scrimmage on tap
Missouri rested some starters, cutting back reps at Wednesday’s practice, and will do so again Friday in preparation for the team’s first scrimmage of training camp Saturday.
Odom said he’s eager to put the team through the paces in a realistic setting.
“We take time between periods of work to explain situational football, but during a scrimmage we want to make it as game-like and lifelike as possible,” Odom said. “The coaches will be off the field and up in the box. Our substitutions will be as we’re playing a game and the number of things we call won’t be segmented into situational football. It will be as the scrimmage goes.”
Defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross said the priority for his side is simple — make tackles.
“Tackling, I said it at the end of the season and said it a lot throughout the season, we’ve got to be a better-tackling team,” Cross said. “We put a good emphasis on it, not only as a unit, but again individually.”
The Tigers need it to be a team-wide emphasis.
“The better gang-tackling you can be, the better defense, meaning that we have to run to the ball,” Cross said. “If we get 11 hats to the ball, that helps on some of the missed tackles. We didn’t have that on a consistent enough basis.”
Surprising D-Line Zou depth
Sophomore defensive end Franklin Agbasimere — a native of Lagos, Nigeria, by way of Montverde Academy — started training camp second on Missouri’s depth chart by default.
The initial depth chart only includes returning players, but he’s remained near the top of the Tigers’ rotation through his performance.
“If we played tomorrow, he’d play a lot,” Odom said. “He’s up to 250-255 pounds and has got a tremendous first step. Initially, going into fall camp, I was thinking ‘let’s design some third-down packages for him,’ but now, after seven or eight days, he’s going to be a good first- and second-down player too.”
Agbasimere arrived at Mizzou without much experience, so he was always going to need time to develop that raw athleticism into football ability.
After working some with special teams last season, Agbasimere seems poised to take the next step.
“He’s extremely strong, has got really long arms, and uses his body leverage the right way,” Odom said. “I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
Senior defensive tackle A.J. Logan sat out Wednesday’s practice after entering Missouri’s concussion protocol.
“We’re taking it really slow on him,” Odom said. “He was a lot better today than he was yesterday, but we’re in no rush on that.”
Junior safety Cam Hilton donned a red pullover, indicating he was limited for practice with a strained hamstring.
Additionally, sophomore defensive tackle Markell Utsey (shoulder) and sophomore wide receiver Justin Smith (knee) remained sidelined, while junior linebacker Terez Hall (leg) and sophomore safety Ronnell Perkins (hamstring) remained limited.
Junior linebacker Kaleb Prewett (hip flexor) was no longer limited.
Volleyball opens season at No. 19
Reigning SEC champions Missouri volleyball opened the season in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I Preseason Top 25 for the first time since 2014.
The Tigers, who reached the Sweet Sixteen last season, open at No. 19 overall.
Led by seniors Melanie Crow and Kira Larson along with junior Alyssa Munlyn, Mizzou hosts its annual Black & Gold Scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 at the Hearnes Center.