After spending the spring cross-training its defensive linemen at different positions, Missouri showed during Saturday's spring game that it could possess one of the most physically intimidating defensive lines in the country.
Some traditionally interior linemen — Akial Byers, Caleb Smapson and Jordan Elliott — logged time at the defensive end spots. All three men are 6-feet-4 and they weigh 325, 295 and 280 pounds, respectively. That's a lot of size to complement star defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., who stands 6-4 and weighs 305 pounds.
Nate Anderson and Chris Turner were the starters at those defensive end spots, which more traditionally fit with their relatively slender frames, but they will need relief — and that could come from bigger bodies.
“Especially on the perimeter or outside run game, that’s a strong spot for us,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said of the size his team possesses on the defensive line. “I think especially on base-downs situations, depending on what personnel group you’re getting on the other side, that’s going to be something we do this year. One, because of our lack of end depth. But also because those guys can go outside and make those plays.”
Linebacker Ronnell Perkins joked that he’ll be able to hide behind the large line, and Byers said he thinks the unit’s size will confuses defenses.
“They think we’re just big guys; we can’t move,” Byers said. “But when they see we actually come off the edge, come outside, it brings a different dynamic to the defense.”
Byers said he thought Elliott was the most versatile member of the line, and Elliott said the same about Byers.
Odom will be happy to see them try to outdo one another.
Scott struggles at QB
Spring games do not decide position battles, which is good news for Lindsey Scott Jr.
The sophomore transfer from East Mississippi Community College has seemed like an obvious candidate to be Missouri’s backup quarterback this fall and succeed Drew Lock as the next leader of MU’s offense, but on Saturday he completed just one of his seven pass attempts for 11 yards and turned the ball over twice.
Scott was the only quarterback other than Lock to take snaps with the rest of the first-team offense, and he faced off against the first-team defense.
He underthrew two deep passes to Richaud Floyd, the second of which ended up as a DeMarkus Acy interception. Scott’s other turnover came in the fourth quarter, when he stared down reserve tight end Logan Christopherson in the middle of the field for an intermediate throw.
“We’ll just look at it — not only this quarterback spot, but every position — on the entire 15 days," Odom said of how spring-game performances impact the depth chart. “This is just a small part of it.”
Lock played just two series and completed seven of his 13 pass attempts for 48 yards and a TD. Redshirt freshman Taylor Powell threw for a game-high 116 yards and a score, but he also tossed an interception.
Raytown grad makes an impression
A pair of early enrollee wide receivers caught two of the game's four TD passes.
Sophomore Harry Ballard, a junior-college transfer, faced two defenders when he caught a 29-yard pass down the left sideline for a touchdown in the second quarter.
A bit later, freshman Dominic Gicinto, who graduated from Raytown in December, ran across the middle of the field for a short catch that ended up as a 65-yard score.
Miller fighting for playing time
Sophomore Aubrey Miller Jr. led the team with 10 tackles, including one for a loss.
The Tigers have established starters at middle and weakside linebacker positions in junior Cale Garrett and senior Terez Hall, but Odom said Missouri still needs to find reliable players to contribute behind those upperclassmen. Miller, who began spring behind Hall as the No. 2 weakside linebacker, could be one of them.
“Aubrey is continuing to develop,” Odom said. “He’s had a good spring and understands the way we need him to play at the Will spot. Terez has kind of taken that over, but we need Aubrey to come over. … It’d be naive of me to think we can get through the season with just Cale and Terez.”
Wide receiver Emanuel Hall injured his shoulder earlier this week and did not participate in the spring game, and Tre Williams missed the latter half of spring camp because of a shoulder injury. Otherwise, Missouri had all of its presumed starters available.
Here were the defensive starters on Saturday:
DE: Nate Anderson
DT: Terry Beckner Jr.
DT: Walter Palmore
DE: Chris Turner
LB: Terez Hall
LB: Cale Garrett
LB: Brandon Lee
CB: DeMarkus Acy
CB: Adam Sparks
SS: Joshuah Bledsoe
FS: Cam Hilton
And here are the offensive starters:
QB: Drew Lock
RB: Larry Rountree III
WR: Nate Brown
WR: Johnathon Johnson
WR: Richaud Floyd
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam
LT: Yasir Durant
LG: Kevin Pendleton
C: Trystan Colon-Castillo
RG: Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms
RT: Paul Adams