Depth issues as Missouri’s injury list grows forced coach Gary Pinkel to opt for a half scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium, but even with limited reps it was clear that the offense’s struggles weren’t ironed out from last week.
It’s worth pointing out that three Tigers starters — senior offensive lineman Connor McGovern (knee), sophomore wide receiver Nate Brown (knee) and junior tight end Sean Culkin (shoulder) — remained sidelined.
That doesn’t completely excuse the offense from failing to throw a touchdown during the first two public scrimmages as Missouri’s defense posted an 8-4 win.
The first- and second-string offense failed to generate any points in roughly 25 snaps apiece, while the third-string offense netted two field goals led by redshirt freshman quarterback Marvin Zanders.
Of course, the Tigers’ defense figures it deserves some credit.
“The offense isn’t doing bad,” said senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who finished with a team-high six tackles. “The defense is just playing really well. We have a lot of people coming back and we just have that connection, that communication that helps us to be better. They’re just young right now … and haven’t put it all together yet.”
Among the bright spots for Missouri’s defense was the play of Clarence Green, a backup linebacker. He finished with five tackles, including two for a loss, with a sack and pass breakup.
“It’s his senior year, so it’s neat to see to him play at that level,” Pinkel said.
Perhaps even more intriguing than Green’s ascendance is cornerback-turned-wide receiver Raymond Wingo’s transition from defense to offense.
Wingo, a redshirt freshman from University City High School in St. Louis, caught two passes for 20 yards, including an 18-yard reception from Zanders in traffic that set up first-and-goal and led to one of the offense’s two field goals.
Wingo admitted that digesting the playbook has been a challenge and reading the defense, so he can pick the correct option for his route, remains a work in progress.
“It’s a lot to learn,” Wingo said, “but, coach (Pat) Washington, I’ve got to give it all him, he’s stayed with me and helped me out. Whenever I do something wrong, he doesn’t get mad or something like that. He just helps me get it right.”
Wingo showed some acumen on the 18-yard hookup with Zanders, who finished the day four of six for a team-high 73 yards.
“If the safety went back, I was going to stop, but if the safety came up, I was going to keep going,” Wingo said. “The safety stayed back, so I just stopped in a little hole right there and got a catch.”
Wingo said he’s close with junior quarterback Maty Mauk and sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore, who also have helped him get acclimated to his new role.
Mauk struggled once again, going two of nine for 9 yards and short-hopping several throws to the boundary. His backup, sophomore Eddie Printz, went eight of 13 for 38 yards.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “Yeah, I missed a couple throws, but it was a good scrimmage for us. Like I’ve been saying, this is one of the best defenses we’re going to play all year. The QBR and all that stuff that goes out. That means nothing, it’s a scrimmage.”
Well, half of one anyway.
“The reality is you’ve got about 10 guys out right now with injuries,” Pinkel said. “Thank heaven it’s spring ball.”
In addition to the three injured starters on offense, Missouri was without three other running backs. Junior Morgan Steward (hip) and redshirt freshman Trevon Walters (knee) have been ruled out for the spring, while sophomore Ish Witter was excused to attend a funeral in Florida.
Backup tight end Austin Ray (broken finger) and freshman offensive lineman Tanner Owen also missed the scrimmage, along with linebacker Eric Beisel (foot) and safeties Tavon Ross (knee) and Anthony Sherrils (migraine).
The Tigers have two more practices, including Tuesday’s workout when MU will finish the second half of the scrimmage, before wrapping up the spring at 4 p.m. April 18 with the annual Black & Gold Game.
Missouri spring game
▪ WHEN: 4 p.m. April 18
▪ WHERE: Memorial Stadium