COLUMBIA - For Jason Townson, the pressure is real.
The 305-pound redshirt junior entered spring workouts as the No. 2 defensive tackle behind senior Ziggy Hood. Now, six practices later, Townson has been demoted in favor of redshirt freshman Terrell Resonno, a Jefferson City High product who was rated as the No. 7 overall Missouri prospect in the 2007 class.
Townson concedes the pressure. But is he intimiated? Hardly.
As the Missouri football team resumed workouts Tuesday at Dan Devine Pavilion after a week-long spring break, Townson knows opportunities to impress are still ample.
“I tell (Resonno) every day that I’m going to get my spot back,” Townson said. “There’s a reason I moved down. It is what it is. You just have to take it in stride. I’ve got to go out there and do my thing.”
He’ll have a chance to do his thing this Saturday when the Tigers hold their first 50-play scrimmage of the spring. It marks the first of two opportunities to impress coaches during a game-like environment before the Spring Game on April 19.
With the competition for the No. 2 defensive tackle slot so tight, Townson realizes that each drill, each evaluation, will be magnified as things become more serious.
“It’s a battle,” Townson said. “The real time to shine is during the scrimmage, so that’s when I plan to shine. Terrell’s good, but I’m coming.”
That’s exactly what coaches want to hear. Competition breeds intensity and yields a convenient proposition for players on both sides of the situation.
Lose your spot? Get it back.
Move up? Congratulations – now keep it.
“It’s a real tight battle,” defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “If we can rotate 12 guys in the game, we’ll put 12 guys in the game. But we’ve got to feel like all those guys can play.”
And that’s what Coach Gary Pinkel and his staff are still trying to figure out. Townson’s predicament is just a piece of the overall puzzle. Can he overcome adversity? How will he approach his first significant test?
It’s all part of a blur that will focus with each snap this spring.
“It’s more pressure than my last semester here, because I was just redshirting,” Townson said. “Now, I’m battling for a spot, battling for playing time. I want to play on that TV, get myself seen.”
DAVIS GONE: Pinkel said junior weakside linebacker Connell Davis has left the team for undisclosed reasons. Davis was a tailback during his first two years in the program before moving to linebacker during spring practice last year. Davis finished the 2007 season with 13 tackles, including six solo efforts. He was listed as the top reserve behind junior Sean Weatherspoon. Redshirt freshman Chad Collard is listed as the No. 3 weakside linebacker option behind Weatherspoon and Davis.
AO TRIBUTE: A poignant moment took place in the final huddle after workouts. The team sang “Happy Birthday” to former Missouri linebacker Aaron O’Neal, who died July 12, 2005, during a voluntary workout at Faurot Field. O’Neal would have turned 22 on Tuesday.