COLUMBIA —As he finishes the drill, running through a block, for no particular reason he yells, “America!” and raises two clenched fists high above his head.
Minutes later, as a teammate pancake blocks someone flat on their back, he shouts, “Welcome to turf town!”
Bumps and Bruises
Tight end Eric Waters returned to the field after missing practice Saturday with a toe injury, but wide receiver Gahn McGaffie was once again held out of drills with a strained hamstring.
Cornerback Robert Steeples also did not participate Monday because of a right ankle injury he suffered after practice Saturday.
Defense wins the day
The Tigers keep score of all 11-on-11 scrimmages in practice, and Monday's overall title went to the defense. Things were even for most of the day, but the defense was impressive in the final set, which was in the red zone.
Sorting out the backfield
Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey all took snaps with the first team Monday. Lawrence took the majority of the reps, but Moore and Josey both broke off nice runs in 11-on-11 drills. It looks as if all three will share carries once the regular season begins.
A few of Monday's most notable plays
- Quarterback James Franklin stepped up, eluded the rush, and threw a nice pass off of his back foot, which Michael Egnew hauled in 10 yards downfield with a diving catch.
- Quarterback Ashton Glaser, currently listed second on the depth chart, threw a long ball to a wide open Wesley Leftwich for a touchdown.
- Running back Greg White, who figures to be fourth on the depth chart with the injury to Marcus Murphy, got through the middle of the line and broke away from the defense late in practice.
Kip Edwards, T.J. Moe and Jimmie Hunt all returned punts once again Monday, but there was a new name added to the mix: True freshman David Johnson, a defensive back out of Spring, Texas.
Sharing the kickoff return duties Monday were Josey, Lawrence and Hunt.
You won’t find him high on the depth chart. He doesn’t have an entry in the team’s media guide. Max Copeland might not be the face of the Missouri offensive line, but he is one of its most prominent voices.
The Tigers’ line is a tight-knit group, partially because it has so much experience — they return four of five starters, all seniors — and partially because of the ties that bind offensive lines. It is the nature of the job of to work as one. All it takes is one missed block to break down even the most well-designed plays.
“We’re a big family,” left tackle and team captain Elvis Fisher said. “Just a bunch of big, fat, slow guys in the sun.”
It’s also the nature of the job to inject a little bit of fun into the mix. Linemen don’t get to catch passes or juke defenders. They rarely make SportsCenter.
“How many kids when they were 9 years old got a football for Christmas? A lot of kids got that. How many kids got a blocking sled for Christmas? They didn’t,” co-offensive line coach Bruce Walker said. “What we have to do down there is do mundane drills over and over and over to teach our bodies to do it under pressure, and if you don’t have a little fun, it’s real drudgery.”
Enter Copeland, a sophomore walk-on from Billings, Mont., who came to MU despite being recruited in-state because, as he puts it, “It wasn’t rock and roll enough for me.”
Copeland “wanted to earn love.”
“I kind of wanted to go against the grain and come here, where you’re not wanted officially, but you have to earn being wanted,” he said. “That was more attractive to me than getting brought in with steak dinners and people patting you on the back.”
What is undoubtedly “rock and roll” is Copeland’s appearance. He hasn’t had a haircut since August 2009. He said he doesn’t plan on cutting it until his Missouri career is over.
“My hair is going to be a testament to the investment I put in here,” he said. “If my hair leaves, I leave.”
Copeland has embraced the lifestyle of a lineman. He talks about it with the enthusiasm of a small child, but in a 6-foot, 3-inch, 270-pound man’s body.
“We get to listen to metal before practice together at 5:30 in the morning. We get to eat a whole bunch of food all the time. We get to hit each other,” he said. “It’s the life man; it’s rock and roll.”
Entering his second season, he still doesn’t have a scholarship, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming assimilated into the group.
“When we’re over there and hitting each other, there’s no division between scholarships and walk-ons,” Copeland said. “There aren’t degrees of brotherhood, it’s all one family.”
His antics aren’t the only thing getting noticed. Walker and Fisher both cited Copeland’s outstanding work ethic. At the end of practice Monday, Copeland led the way in his group’s conditioning.
“He’s becoming a pretty good football player, that’s a credit to how hard he works and the type of guy he is,” Walker said. “When I write my memoirs, Max Copeland is going to have a great chapter.”
If Copeland had it his way, that chapter could only have one title: Rock and Roll.