Tackling drill a challenge for Missouri football team's defensive line

Friday, August 19, 2011 | 3:40 p.m. CDT
Redshirt freshman Lucas Vincent, a defensive lineman, listens to instructions from a coach during practice on Friday at Faurot Field.

COLUMBIA — Dominique Hamilton is listed at 6 feet, 5 inches and 305 pounds. And he’s going to tackle you. There’s no getting out of the way.

That’s life for Hamilton’s teammates on the Missouri football team's defensive line during preseason camp.

Practice Report

Going Deep

Missouri quarterbacks and wide receivers work on the passing game every day, and there were a good deal of deep balls thrown during Friday's practice. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin threw a few passes in the 25-yard range. He overthrew junior receiver T.J. Moe and senior receiver Wes Kemp on consecutive attempts. His next long throw was targeted at Kemp, but the play was broken up by double coverage.

Franklin commented that he thinks his long passes are good but that there is still room for improvement.

"I think progressively since two-a-days started, it's gotten better looking downfield," Franklin said. "I know it's not where I want it to be, because if it's where I want it to be, I'm hitting every one of them."

Senior quarterback Jimmy Costello completed a pair of deep balls Friday, throwing 60-yard and a 40-yard completions to freshman receiver Bud Sasser, one going for a touchdown.

Seeing Red

More players were sporting red jerseys, signaling injuries, during Friday morning's practice. Senior defensive end Jacquies Smith and sophomore safety Matt White were sidelined with ankle injuries, and senior linebacker Will Ebner was recovering from a concussion, according to head coach Gary Pinkel.

Earning Promotions

Both offensive coordinator Dave Yost and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel were promoted to assistant head coaches by Pinkel on Friday morning.

"They're great coaches," Pinkel said after practice. "They're great role models. They've been with me a long time, and I'm real excited about doing it."

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In a drill called “patch tackle,” one lineman must stand still while, a few feet away, another lineman moves around a blocker before tackling his stationary teammate by picking him up and slamming him down onto a giant yellow pad.

Although some of the players said getting slammed into the pad by their teammates is just something they have to do, the drill looks scary. The hits are hard, the hits are loud and no evasive maneuvers are allowed by the players getting tackled.

Watching the drill brings to mind former vaudeville performer Frank “Cannonball” Richards, who made a name for himself in the 1930s by allowing a cannonball to be shot into his stomach from a few feet away.

“That is an accurate description. It’s a pretty intense drill, it’s a pretty intense drill,” Hamilton repeated to emphasize the point. “If you don’t get set up right, the guy getting hit, it could knock the wind out of him or hurt. So, you’ve got to do it right.”

Adding to the already scary-looking drill were the loud screams of Jimmy Burge, who lets out a loud roar whenever he is hit or hits someone himself. Burge said he does it to boost the enthusiasm and excitement of his teammates.

“I’ve tried to concentrate this year on getting everybody else going, being the guy that is ready to go as soon as the horn blows,” Burge said. “Everybody else can follow me into the drill and get excited and do everything with 100 percent effort.”

Hamilton explained it is a better way to take such a big hit.

“It helps, too,” Hamilton said of Burge’s screams. “When you go into it, you know you’re about to get hit. You just scream. It’s a little mental thing, and it helps.”

Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski explained that the drill helps improve tackling form. Players have to pick their teammates up when making the proper tackle, otherwise that teammate might not land on the pad. He said he got the drill from Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator at Penn State. Sandusky served as defensive coordinator under head coach Joe Paterno from 1977 to 1999 and was part of two national championship teams in the 1980s.

Hamilton said the linemen run the drill almost every day. He said his height makes both sides of the drill more difficult for him.

“It’s frustrating,” Hamilton said, “because I’m a tall guy. They’ve got to really get up under me and drive me back. But, most of the time, their heads are at my gut — and we can’t bend over — so it hurts. ...

“When you’re trying to tackle somebody that’s real low, you have to actually get down there in order to do this drill and drive them back onto the pad, or you’ve got to go again, and it’s not effective.”

Regardless of how scary it might seem to be on the receiving end of the tackle, both Burge and Hamilton said it is a little fun to tackle someone they know isn’t going to try to move.

But, the players they will be tasked with tackling during the season will be much smaller than their teammates on the defensive line.

“You’re not always going to be tackling a 295-pound running back,” Burge said.

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