COLUMBIA - Brian Coulter is no stranger to hardship.
His mother killed his father when he was 2 years old. He was told by accident - eight years later. Because of what Coulter described as a misunderstanding, he didn't learn how to read proficiently until junior high.
Suddenly Coulter's bum ankle, an injury he says should keep him from being 100 percent for another four to six weeks, doesn't seem quite so important.
"My whole life, man, I've been in situations that I had no control over," Coulter said. "This is just another one of those things, so I'm alright with it. This is nothing."
Coulter, a native of Louisiana, signed with Florida State in 2007 out of Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss., but failed to qualify academically. And, despite becoming eligible last spring, the Seminoles retracted their scholarship offer.
After weighing his options and seeing which teams would give him the most exposure and chances to win, Coulter chose Missouri.
As his nagging ankle injury looked like it was finally healing, the junior defensive end re-injured it in a scrimmage Saturday. On Monday, Coulter spent most of his time limping around in a bulky boot and riding a stationary bike.
For a player who some have already compared to former defensive end Justin Smith, those activities were the last thing he wanted to be doing.
"Our main concern is just to get him healthy right now," All-Big 12 defensive end Stryker Sulak said. "He doesn't need to worry about competing right now, he just needs to get back to 100 percent."
With his dispute over a spot on Florida State's roster over with, Coulter pointed to his pained past as his reason for being able to take his latest setback in stride.
"When I was in elementary school, my parents basically left it up to me whether or not to go to school when I was in second and third grade," said Coulter, who was placed in state custody when he was nine years old. "After I went into the group home, they held me back in second grade at first, but then they decided to put me back in the fourth grade where I was supposed to be for my age, so most of the time I was pretty behind and had to catch up the whole time."
Coulter says once he reached high school, the gap between him and his classmates narrowed, but he still was unable to academically qualify for major schools after high school.
"Going to junior college was really the best thing for me," Coulter said. "I learned so much when I was there, and now I'm like a totally different person."
Although Coulter was unable initially qualify for the Seminoles, he insists Tiger fans have nothing to worry about concerning his eligibility in Columbia.
"This is nothing new for me," Coulter said. "My first two semesters at Pearl River I was taking 18 and 19 hours, summer classes, night classes, everything, so I've dealt with all this before."
One thing he hasn't dealt with yet, though, is working to fulfill the expectations fans and media have piled on him since he first arrived in Columbia in mid-July.
"People always say stuff like I could fill Justin Smith's shoes and stuff like that," Coulter said. "That's something I take as an honor, and I feel like I can live up to that eventually, I just need patience. Even if I'm only healthy for half this year, I've still got a year-and-a-half to do everything I can to meet those expectations."
COFFMAN RESUMES: Chase Coffman was back in pads Monday, but his equipment included a red jersey pullover and a bulky wrap over his broken right pinkie finger. Coffman participated in noncontact drills and, as planned, was not thrown any balls.
FRESHMEN TO PLAY: After Monday morning's practice, head coach Gary Pinkel announced that eight freshmen would not redshirt this season. Will Ebner, who Pinkel has raved about all preseason, will see some action for a linebacking unit that has been depleted by injuries. Tight ends Andrew Jones and Michael Egnew and wide receivers Gahn McGaffie and Jerrell Jackson have all had some impressive catches in the preseason and will also suit up. In the trenches, Dan Hoch and Jacquies Smith will play, on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively. Walk-on Beau Brinkley will be assigned with long-snapping duty on punts as well, the only walk-on who Pinkel says will not redshirt as it stood Monday.
Good as Goldsmith: During a passing skeleton drill, senior wide receiver Earl Goldsmith snagged a ball over the middle off a Sean Weatherspoon tip that had to have defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus rolling his eyes.
WASHINGTON IMPRESSES: Derrick Washington broke an impressive 50-yard run on the right side in one of the highlights of 11-on-11 action in Monday's practice.
GABBERT GETS SEAT TIME: Late in practice, heralded freshman quarterback Blaine Gabbert got a couple of reps with the first team as starter Chase Daniel chirped tips to the Ballwin native between plays. Gabbert connected on his first three passes against the first-team defense, including a touchdown on a fade route that senior receiver Tommy Saunders wrestled away from Castine Bridges.
KEMP'S HAUL: Wes Kemp also hauled in a nice touchdown pass on a fade route from backup quarterback Chase Patton. The freshman receiver went up and over junior defensive back Erik Rudin and just got his feet inside the back left corner of the end zone.
BRIDGES BACK IN RED: In Monday's afternoon practice, starting cornerback Castine Bridges donned a red jersey again, a week after wearing the jersey to protect an inflamed IT band in his knee. Pinkel was not available after practice Monday afternoon to comment on the injury, but Bridges took part in all drills.
BASTON BANGED UP: The newest member of the Tigers' defensive line, Jaron Baston, injured his right ankle in practice Monday morning, and was noticeably limping for the remainder of practice. Monday afternoon, the junior had the ankle heavily wrapped, but was still significantly hampered. Despite the injury, Baston did not wear a red jersey and took part in all drills.