3 in the Kee: More snapshots from the Mizzou Black and Gold game
COLUMBIA, Mo. — It was more about snapshots than statistics, really. Running back Morgan Steward lowering his shoulder and de-cleating a defender during a 12-yard run on third down. Punter Christian Brinser dropping a punt to end the first half that rolled all the way to the opposing 1-yard line.
Walk-on wideout Gavin Otte adjusting in the air on a ball that had been held up in the wind to make a nice 33-yard grab on the reserves’ first drive of the game. Of course, in hindsight, it was also the only first down the starting defense gave up the rest of the day.
As Missouri coach Gary Pinkel pointed out, the Tigers’ 2014 Black and Gold game wasn’t so much about team statistics as it was evaluations of individuals. And given that, here were some more snapshots that stood out from the pack …
THREE MORE CARRYOVER IMPRESSIONS FROM THE 2014 MIZZOU BLACK AND GOLD GAME
:03 (tie) … THE NEW PIECES ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE SEEM TO FIT
Other than a false start early for the first-team "Mizzou 1" offense, the new faces in new places — Mitch Morse at left tackle, Anthony Gatti at left guard and Connor McGovern at right tackle — seemed to fit just fine, more often than not. And it was a marked improvement, execution-wise, from the scrimmages held earlier in the month.
"A couple of weeks ago, it was a little tough," noted center Evan Boehm, one of the core pieces returning to the fold. "But I’m proud of Anthony and I’m proud of Mitch for stepping up and doing the things that they were doing inside, and learning on the run, and learning quick.
"(Morse) did a great job learning, and you saw him out there and he looked like a natural. And Mitch is an athlete; he can do basically anything on the offensive line. And Connor moving out from guard to (right) tackle, that’s a little bit different. But just like Mitch, they all did a great job at coming together and learning and getting better at the fundamentals."
As Pinkel would point out later, depth figures to be important, too — something the Tigers learned the hard way in 2012, when injuries and inconsistency up front made for a rough first-year transition to the SEC.
"We had a good day (Saturday)," Boehm said. "But we’ve just got to keep Maty protected and keep him off the ground, but at the same time, we’re going out there and we have a job to do. And when we accomplish those things, it’s going to be special."
:02… THERE IS LIFE AFTER SAM AND EALY ALONG THE LINE
Not that the defensive end combo of Shane Ray and Markus Golden made it easy for the cats trying to hold up the perimeter of the pocket.
Ray was credited with four tackles and a sack — quarterbacks were off-limits to full contact and were considered "down" if touched — and wound up in the reserves’ backfield much of the afternoon. Ditto Golden (one sack), who had a good time getting after it, too.
"(He) had a great spring," Pinkel said. "Him and Shane Ray both did. They are high-level guys like the two we lost."
That’s hardly faint praise, either: Those two ‘high-level guys’ — Kony Ealy (nine sacks last fall) and Michael Sam (11 1/2 sacks) — cast awfully large, game-changing shadows along the defensive line.
"We’ve still got a lot of work to do," said Ray, who collected 4 1/2 sacks in a reserve role last fall, while Golden had 6 1/2. "We’re going to get there. Our goal is to be one of the top defenses in the nation."
:01 … THE TALL TARGETS ARE STILL … WELL, TALL ENOUGH
The Tigers last fall could line up three wideouts who were taller than some basketball frontcourts, including 6-foot-6 Dorial Green-Beckham and 6-4 L’Damian Washington on the wings. Mauk won’t have the services of either one, but there was already a clear, comfortable rapport with 6-3 Darius White, who suffered a minor shoulder injury, and 6-2 Bud Sasser.
"(With the) receivers, everybody stepped up," said Mauk, who completed 11 of 15 throws on the day. "And like I said earlier, everybody’s here for a reason. They know that, and people are just stepping up and getting better."
Pinkel also liked what he saw in 6-6 Sean Culkin at tight end this past month, even while the latter was coping with a fractured finger. And given the desire for big targets and the well-documented losses at the receiver slot, the coach floated the idea of some more conventional formations down the road.
"At times before in the past around here (where) we’ve gone (with) two receivers, two tight ends and one running back," Pinkel said. "So there are a lot of different directions we can go."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.