COLUMBIA - His progression gives him confidence. A year ago, he was only a walk-on, feeling his way with faith that grit and perseverance would deliver him his due.
Now, reserve redshirt freshman quarterback Jimmy Costello has matured and is becoming a more complete player, roaring past uncertainty on his winding road to maturity.
"When I came in here this time last year, I just wasn't a complete quarterback," Costello said. "I didn't quite know how to read and follow all the defenses. I didn't know how to read their schemes, know where people were coming from. I just learned a lot from the quarterbacks and (quarterbacks) coach David Yost, who I really owe a lot to."
Costello took snaps against defensive starters for the first time this fall, completing 8-of-14 passes for 85 yards in Missouri's final preseason scrimmage Thursday at Dan Devine Pavilion. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kansas City-area native and Liberty High School product accepts his role in the shadow of senior All-American Chase Daniel's prominence, grinding toward the moment when effort meets reward.
He collected accolades as a dual-sport star in high school. At Liberty, he was named an all-Northland Conference and all-district golfer. In football, he was a two-time all-conference selection for the Bluejays, passing for 3,200 yards and 33 touchdowns during his final two seasons.
Steady growth has marked Costello's transition to MU. In 2007, he walked on and gained a consistent place on the practice squad, helping to lead the scout-team offense. In April, he completed one pass for 12 yards in the Black & Gold Game, and he entered camp this fall as the No. 4 option. By late July, he climbed to the third spot on the depth chart for a time, behind Daniel and Rock Bridge graduate and current senior Chase Patton.
"I'm competing every day, and I'm putting all that I can into it," Costello said. "I'm just trying to get better every day. That's one thing I've done a lot better since last year at this time. I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent better, but I'm still competing and getting better every day."
That attitude helped him reach a threshold moment this past spring. During spring practice, he said he started to grasp the offense with more consistency. Gone were the days of an unseasoned touch-and-feel approach. He began to recognize downfield nuances, and with repetition, practice slowly became habit.
"He's definitely a student of the game, and he definitely knows everything about it," freshman quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
"He knows where to go with the football; that's the main thing."
Said MU football coach Gary Pinkel: "He's one of those guys who walked onto our program and continues to get better. I'm really pleased with him."
Now, Costello works toward more. His humble approach to his role within MU's offense gives him reassurance about his progress.
"It's not a lot different," Costello said of facing the first-team defense. "They blitz a lot more. You get a few more looks with what they're doing coverage-wise, but overall, it's pretty much the same looks you get (with the) second- and third-string defense."
PATTON OUT: Chase Patton was on the sideline with a red pullover jersey throughout Thursday's scrimmage. Afterward, Pinkel said Patton didn't play because of a sore hamstring.
"They were afraid he was going to burst on it, so (team trainer) Rex (Sharp) calls that shot," Pinkel said.
GABBERT PRAISED: Gabbert took the most snaps he has seen for the No. 1 offense during the three preseason scrimmages. The former Elite-11 recruit from Parkway West in Ballwin threw for 103 yards on 12-of-21 passing.
"I was ready to come out here and have fun and improve upon what I've done so far this camp," he said. "There's always things I can improve upon, making decisions and throwing the ball. You always take the positives out of it, and that's what I'm trying to do now."
LAST DAY'S THOUGHTS: Players were eager to see the last event of training camp come to a close. MU began fall camp on Aug. 4 and will have an off day Friday before participating in closed practices over the weekend.
"I think it's definitely well-needed to give guys' bodies time to recuperate and decompress for the upcoming week, so we can go into the game injury-free," sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said.
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVING: After losing center Adam Spieker and left tackle Tyler Luellen, who collectively started 90 consecutive games, Pinkel identified the offensive line as an area in need of improvement. Following the scrimmage, Pinkel said he was pleased with the unit's progression so far.
"I think we're doing OK," Pinkel said. "I think (redshirt freshman) Elvis Fisher is a starter. I think he's doing well. He got a lot of work today. (Sophomore) Tim Barnes ... has been in the arena a little bit. I think overall we're in pretty good shape."