NOTEBOOK: Missouri football returns to practice

Friday, December 16, 2011 | 7:14 p.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CST, Friday, December 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — That dominating sound is reserve defensive end Michael Sam's laughter.

As the Missouri defensive line runs through the same figure-eight drill it's been doing since August, Sam is practically cackling. Sheldon Richardson is whooping loudly. Jacquies Smith takes his helmet off to make a comment to Dominique Hamilton.

Later, Richardson says to reporters while playing catch, "Y'all should write a story about how I need to go back to tight end."

Even though practice doesn't look like fun, the joy is evident on the players' faces. With the stress of finals week in the rearview mirror, the team is thrilled to trade textbooks for playbooks and study hall for film study.

"I pulled the first all-nighter of my life," junior wide receiver T.J. Moe said. "Just stressful, you know. You go through the whole year, and then a lot of them, you know, I had one final that ended up being worth 60 percent of my grade."

Academic success has a been a hallmark of Missouri's football program over the past few years. In 2009-2010, the most recent data available, the Tigers led the Big 12 in Academic Progress Rate, the statistic the NCAA uses to evaluate teams' academic success. Missouri was second in both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.

Thirteen of Missouri's players will graduate this weekend, and by the time the team takes the field for the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26, 21 players will have earned their degrees.

"You're not coming here to go to school and play football, you're coming here to graduate from school and play football," Pinkel said. "That's two different things."

Moe said no matter how talented players at Missouri are, they understand the importance of getting a degree.

"We may all play in the NFL for 10 years, even if you do play in the NFL for 10 years, you still have to do something after that," Moe said. "You have to get a degree, and most of us won't play in the NFL for 10 years."

Quarterback James Franklin said he'll take some of the lessons from finals week onto the field.

"I start second-guessing myself and that's where I really mess up, I just need to stick with that first answer and be confident," Franklin said. "That kind of transitions over to football, I need to see my first read and be confident in my throw, I can't just second guess … That's something I can learn from the academic aspect of it."

Plan in place for Odom’s replacement

Pinkel spoke Friday about the departure of safeties coach Barry Odom, who will become the defensive coordinator at Memphis under new head coach Justin Fuente. He said he's already decided on Odom's replacement, but kept his plan hidden Friday.

"It's all done, but not to be said," Pinkel said. "I usually got a plan for most all those things."

Pinkel also spoke about the team's reaction to the news.

"It's so unusual having a coach leave here. Most programs they lose two or three guys a year, around here we lose one and everybody's going, you know, they can't live with themselves," Pinkel said.

Ressel out for bowl game

Kicker Grant Ressel was ruled out for the Independence Bowl, Pinkel said.

"We tried to kick him when he got back, and it didn't work," he said.

Ressel has been out since after the Oklahoma State loss on Oct. 22 with an injury to his hip flexor.

Center Travis Ruth, though, has returned to 100 percent, after battling ankle and foot injuries all season.

"This is the best he's been since maybe three months ago," Pinkel said.

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