Missouri coach Gary Pinkel declined to offer any specifics, but the battle to replace Christian Brinser as the team’s starting punter appears to be headed for a photo finish.
“It’s good competition,” Pinkel said. “Eventually, you’ve got to make some decisions, and that will be obviously next Thursday there will be final decisions on a lot of things.”
Senior Andrew Baggett, who has been sidelined this week with back spasms, was listed on the pre-camp depth chart as the starting punter with sophomore Luke Jackson serving as the backup.
The real competition probably comes down to a pair of newcomers — freshman Corey Fatony from Franklin, Tenn., and junior Dayton Balvanz, an Eldora, Iowa, native who transferred in from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College.
Fatony is a directional-kicking whiz and is quicker with his kicks, but Balvanz has an edge in experience and boots the ball with an array of unusual spins that can make fielding his punts tricky.
Fatony could also see time as a kicker if needed with senior three-year starter Baggett and his backup, junior Nick Coffman, currently sidelined, but that’s not a move Missouri has deemed necessary yet.
“We’ve talked and analyzed all that, but we’re not at that step right now,” Pinkel said.
▪ Freshman quarterback Drew Lock has impressed during Missouri’s first two scrimmages, but it remains unclear if he’ll have a role on the 2015 team or take a redshirt season.
Lock is 29 of 39 for 307 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions so far in scrimmages. Much of that work came against the third-string defense, but it’s no stretch to say he’s been the most impressive quarterback on the field.
The Tigers’ staff doesn’t need to rush into a decision about Lock.
Pinkel didn’t directly address the situation Friday after practice, but he made it clear that Lock’s youth won’t hold him back if he’s deemed the best choice for a spot on MU’s quarterback depth.
“I don’t really think you evaluate whether he’s a freshman or a sophomore,” Pinkel said. “I don’t think you really do that. I think you evaluate quarterbacks.”
▪ Three players were added to Missouri’s injury report Friday, a day after the second scrimmage of camp.
Junior linebacker Donavin Newsom (left shoulder strain), senior wide receiver Wesley Leftwich (right knee sprain) and senior running back Tyler Hunt (groin strain) didn’t practice after getting nicked up in the scrimmage. The trio are considered day-to-day.
Wide receivers J’Mon Moore (left shoulder sprain) and Eric Laurent (viral infection) along with kickers Andrew Baggett (back spasms) and Nick Coffman (groin strain) also remain day-to-day.
Redshirt freshman Andy Bauer (hip) sat out practice for a regularly scheduled rest day after Thursday’s scrimmage. He is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
New sophomore cornerback Anthony Hines, who was added to the roster earlier in the week from College of San Mateo (Calif.), is sidelined two to three weeks with a left foot injury.
Freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson (right ankle sprain) is out indefinitely after an awkward tackle during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Finally, redshirt freshman Roderick Winters (right Lisfranc injury) will miss the season after surgery on Friday.