COLUMBIA — Dominique Hamilton is tired of it.
Not so much of the early mornings or the second practice of the day or the meetings that interfere with nap time. No, Hamilton, a senior nose guard on the Missouri football team, is tired of hitting the same teammates over and over again.
“We just can’t wait until Sept. 3 (Missouri’s season opener against Miami of Ohio).We’re counting down the days,” Hamilton said. “We’re going against the same guys. Obviously some days he’s going to beat you, and some days you’re going to beat him. You just get tired of it.”
Hamilton, though, has the luxury of being a sure starter as his position. As the team begins its final 10 days of practice before the season starts, some players are trying to make one last effort to move up, or stay atop, the depth chart.
Missouri has not released an updated depth chart since July, and players say they have not seen an official one, either, but they can tell where they stand during practice.
The back-up quarterback competition is a good example. James Franklin is the clear starter, but senior Jimmy Costello, sophomore Ashton Glaser and freshman Corbin Berkstresser are still vying for the back-up position.
If you are going by the paper, Glaser is still No. 2, which is where he was at the beginning of preseason camp. But while Costello and Berkstresser practiced with Franklin during single coverage drills last week, Glaser was relegated to the other side of the field with scout team quarterback Kortland Webb.
“We haven’t seen a depth chart, but we know who’s in what position,” Franklin said. “Right now it’s myself, Jimmy, Corbin, Ashton and Kortland.”
The arrival of Sheldon Richardson has made Missouri deeper at defensive tackle while raising questions about depth chart changes. Hamilton said he and Terrell Resonno are still the two starters, with Jimmy Burge, Lucas Vincent, Marvin Foster and Richardson sharing rotations, and that the first people to find out about changes are the players involved.
“The coaches tell us personally,” Hamilton said. “They tell the player losing his spot to get his spot back, and they tell the other guy that (the back-up) is coming to get his spot back.”
Franklin said the third and final scrimmage on Thursday is not as important as the first two, but he thought it could still result in movement on the depth chart, specifically in position battles that remain deadlocked. Hamilton added that some extend into the first month of the season.
“The depth chart is basically set, but of course it’s never really set,” he said. “The coaches watch and see how guys do in the first couple of games. If this guy is playing better than that guy, this guy will move up. That’s just how it’s going to go.”
The last 10 days before kickoff aren’t so much about individual competition as solving larger problems. Coaches want as many players as possible to discard their red jerseys, which indicate an injury.
Last week, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said he hoped to have many of the injured starters back by Tuesday’s practice. These include defensive ends Brad Madison and Jacquies Smith, safeties Kenji Jackson and Matt White, linebacker Will Ebner and wide receiver Jerrell Jackson.
One of the most important is center Travis Ruth, who suffered a strained right Achilles’ tendon in the team'steam's first scrimmage on Aug. 13. The offensive line already lost left tackle Elvis Fisher, who had started 40 games for the Tigers, for the season with a knee injury. Fisher’s injury sent backup left guard Justin Britt to left tackle, and Ruth’s sent starting left guard Jayson Palmgren to center. Backup right guard Jack Meiners stepped into Palmgren's spot.
The team is not concerned Ruth will miss any games, but his return would give the overwhelmed line a sense of normalcy and a sense it is moving forward.
“I mean, it’s bad what has happened to us, but I think we’ll pull through,” Palmgren said.
Pinkel knows his players are weary, of clashing against teammates rather than opponents, the additional injuries every day, or simply the physical and mental grind. He canceled afternoon practices last week in favor of meetings or lighter activities.
But he also knows that this time of year can set the tone for the rest of the season.
"We have guys tired, sore, but they're supposed to be," Pinkel said. "I told them afterwards, if you're not tired and sore, you don't feel awful, then you're not working hard enough. That's the way you're supposed to feel. But, you're not supposed to show you feel that way.
“The urgency is getting better because we’re running out of time.”