COLUMBIA — Dew still covers the practice fields when the Missouri football team starts practice and the sun hasn't yet brought it's wrath down upon the players. But as practice comes to a close, the heat has picked up, and then it's time to run. Running to the sideline and back in 18 seconds is the team's mission, and after a long practice and five of the sprints, more and more players circle the water cooler, looking for relief.
But junior wide receiver Jerrell Jackson isn't tired. Neither is senior tailback Derrick Washington. As the sideline talk gives way to the heavy breathing of exhausted players, Jackson lifts his left palm above his head and slides his right hand over it. Jackson calls out to Washington, 20 yards away, as imaginary $100 bills rain over the wide receivers.
GETTING HEATED: Wide receiver Jerrell Jackson and safety Jasper Simmons had a bit of a fracas during 11-on-11 drills at the end of practice. The pushing match cleared most of both the offensive and defensive sidelines, but the pile had a lot of bark and no bite. No punches were thrown, and both players joked about the confrontation after practice.
BONNER TEARS ACL: Outside linebacker Donovan Bonner, aka @YungBull15, tweeted "Torn ACL........No big deal" Friday night. Gary Pinkel confirmed Bonner's injury on Saturday, and said that Bonner will receive a medical redshirt this, his sophomore season. Bonner had nine tackles as a true freshman in 2009. The redshirt will keep three years of eligibility intact for the Dallas native's probable return in 2011.
GRABBING ATTENTION: Freshman safety Daniel Easterly was the subject of plenty of coaching attention Saturday. Though he is currently buried on the depth chart, it is no surprise that coaches are giving Easterly strong looks and help on the side. Easterly towers over his fellow defensive backs at 6-foot-3, and has fast, but sure, footwork. He could climb the depth chart quickly once the team starts practicing in full pads
OUTSTANDING PERFORMERS: Some standout players on Saturday were redshirt sophomore wide receiver Gahn McGaffie, redshirt freshman tight end Alex Sanders and freshman wide receiver Jimmie Hunt, who, after three days, has been the best of a strong group of freshman wideouts. Hunt, from Cahokia, Ill., (just across the river from St. Louis) is a big play waiting to happen on every snap and has a nose for catching the ball in traffic. Hunt made a fantastic looking one-handed catch over the middle during seven-on-seven play.
MOE PLAYING TIME: T.J. Moe had an outstanding practice with the second team and showed some nice rapport with quarterback James Franklin. The Tigers' default formation is three wide receivers, one tight end in the slot and a tailback, and even though the tight end position is deep and talented, Moe will spell the position frequently this season. On the field, Moe fits the mold of NFL slot receivers Freddie Mitchell, Pierre Garçon and Wes Welker.
CULVERIZER: Redshirt sophomore tailback Jared Culver doesn't fit in the Missouri spread system at 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds, but he received fourth-team reps on Saturday. Culver's promotion is merely by the virtue of his seniority, but it is fun to think what the brick of a back could do for the Tigers in short-yardage situations. Beyond that, his name lends well to a nickname — the Culverizer — and it would be a fun change of pace to see him on the field, even if only for one down — preferably third or fourth.
Washington knows exactly what Jackson is doing. Taking the cue, he yells out for the umpteenth time that practice.
Jackson and a dozen other players follow Washington in the call for currency. With a new found jump in their once tired step, the offensive linemen finish their sprints as the team cheers them on.
Last season, the Tigers' official mantra was "Beast M.O.D.E.," standing for motivation, opportunity, desire, and enthusiasm. The slogan was heavily used on official team equipment and special Nike uniforms worn for the Missouri-Kansas football game in 2009. Nike's pervasive marketing campaign for the uniforms engulfed the team's facilities and the MU campus with the "beast M.O.D.E." slogan.
"Get money" is not an official slogan. Yet.
So far this summer, Tigers coaches have been wearing T-shirts with a different motto each day, encouraging the team to"think right" and play from the "whistle to the snap." While the coaches might have T-shirts, Washington and Jackson's "get money" is fast on it's way to becoming the unofficial slogan of the 2010 Tigers.
If Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll were leading the Tigers, the NCAA might want to investigate, but for now, "get money" is the motto for Washington and Jackson, and it's catching on fast.
The concept of "get money" started in the summer. During seven-on-seven practices, away from the Missouri coaches, Washington and Jackson decided the Tigers needed a saying to get their teammates excited. "Get money" was created.
"Me and Jerrell were just taking one day and he said 'we gotta get money this year,'" Washington said. "And I said 'you know what, you're right.'"
Now, Jackson and Washington are smart guys — Jackson was second-team academic all-Big 12 in 2009 — and they know their new catchphrase could be misconstrued by an outsider. Even so, they're not worried about the NCAA knocking on their door.
"We don't mean it like that (literally)," Washington said. "It's the players' call. You're going to hear it a lot."
Jackson said that "get money" is just a way to keep the offense loose and having fun.
"That's what you got to do during two-a-days," Jackson said. "If you're not having fun, it's going to be worse."
Jackson and Washington tested "get money" with the team a bit before camp started, but decided to showcase the phrase in earnest when preseason camp began on Thursday. Washington, a frequent user of Twitter (@wash24), is even using #GetMoney at the end of his posts.
"It's just something to swag out the offense, to make the offense more comfortable," Jackson said. "When we say 'get money' it means that we're going to come out here and make plays."
Jackson even has a currency system — imaginary, of course — for the motto.
Each big play is worth $200. A big catch for Jackson earns him 200 swagger dollars. A big run for Washington? Another $200.
The Tigers are hoping that the imaginary money piles up during the season for Jackson and Washington. Both players will be a factor players for the Tigers, and much of the team's success hinges on their performances.
Jackson has replaced All-American wide receiver Danario Alexander in the slot wide receiver position. Inheriting that job makes Jackson the first read for quarterback Blaine Gabbert on passing plays. In the first three days of practice, Jackson has frequently seen the ball coming his way.
Jackson is more than happy to be Gabbert's main target. The two have built up chemistry in their three years with the team and now both are in a position to make plays — err, money.
"The slot position gets a lot of balls," Jackson said. "It's just that position that the offense has evolved around. I'm grateful to be in that position. Coach sees a lot of potential in me and I'm enjoying being there."
Jackson said that Gabbert is starting to pick up on "get money," too. It's only a matter of time before everyone is saying it.
Washington had a solid season in 2009, but wants his senior season to emulate his breakout sophomore year, when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards. An experienced offensive line is ready to help him get there, and talented backups De'vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence can keep Washington as fresh and crisp as his imaginary $100 bills.
Going into his final season, Washington isn't denying that "get money" is a constant reminder of his goal to play in the NFL.
"That might have something to do with it," Washington jokes as he averts his gaze. "But it all comes together. It works for both causes perfectly."
Jackson agrees that with the pro game possibly looming for Washington after the season, "get money" has a bit more urgency, but it's still all about the 2010 Tigers.
"You gotta get money out here to get money later," Jackson said. "Right now, it's just about making plays. If you're getting a lot of money-making plays, the NFL is bound to happen."