COLUMBIA — Dan Hoch came into the 2009 Missouri football season seeking to fill the right tackle spot that Colin Brown had held. However, when Hoch sprained his left knee during last Tuesday's practice, other players needed to step up for him.
The Missouri coaching staff moved players around to fill the void. Adjustments included shifting team captain Kurtis Gregory from right guard to Hoch's right tackle spot. Sophomores J.T. Beasley and Jayson Palmgren, listed as reserves on the depth chart, spent time working with the first team offense at right guard. Beasley said the changes to his practice routine have been minor.
"The ones (starters) and twos (top reserves), they're a lot alike," he said. "They swap out. So we go against the same people for the most part. But we have more plays in the one group. A little more tiring, but other than that, it's the same old, same old."
Coach Gary Pinkel said trying people out at different positions is what coaches do in the case of an injury.
"I try to turn most negatives into a positive. If that would happen in a game, that's how we would have done it," he said. "I think it's allowed us to really practice and improve in those areas, so if it happens, or if we need to make a change or go in a different direction, we've been there."
Gregory said all the offensive linemen have made a good effort to keep the offense sharp without Hoch.
"We've been able to adjust great," he said. "You always want Hoch back, you never want players to be hurt. But Beasley's been playing real well, Jayson Palmgren has been playing real well. They're rotating a little bit at right guard. (Austin) Wuebbels has been solid at left guard. It's been going real well."
After Friday's practice, he said the offense played well enough to be competitive against the defense, even though the defense won the practice in the final drills.
"You'd like to finish a lot better at the end and win practice," Gregory said. "That's kind of frustrating. We didn't get enough of them in the end zone in that last period."
Gregory said his experience at Missouri has made this temporary transition smoother.
"I've played every (offensive line) position since I've been here," he said. "Some of the plays are different. I screwed up a few plays yesterday, and I think I messed up one today, maybe. It's just a matter of going, 'Oh, OK, that's how we block this run here at tackle.' Little different steps, little different mindset. You're on the island a little more by yourself. But communication on the line helps a lot as a tackle."
Pinkel said it gives players a chance to show what they can do at different positions, which helps coaches make decisions for the rest of the season.
"(Redshirt freshman Travis Ruth) can both play center and guard, and so can Beasley," he said. "That's something we'll have to decide going in: Who is the third tackle? Would it be Kurtis Gregory? Would we move freshmen up there? Last year our third tackle that would go in in that spot and our second center that would go in was both Kurtis Gregory. So those things we are constantly looking at and working out and fine tuning."
Missouri coaches says they hope Hoch is healthy enough to start Sept. 5 when Missouri faces Illinois in St. Louis.
"We want to get Dan Hoch back," Pinkel said. "We're trying to make the best of it."
Beasley said he's ready to play if coaches call on him.
"I'd like to think I'm game ready right now," he said. "That's what I'm being told. So I'm going to just keep working and try to get as good as I can, take advantage of the opportunity."