Missouri defense prepares in earnest for North Carolina

Saturday, December 17, 2011 | 6:32 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Reserve quarterback Ashton Glaser lines up under center at his own 2-yard line. A fullback and tailback stand directly behind him. Glaser signals, and Kyle Peasel, assuming the role of tight end on this particular play, comes in motion across the formation. Glaser takes the snap and hands it to tailback Marcus Murphy for a run up the middle.

A basic run out of the I-formation would be a common sight at many college practices, but at Missouri and around the Big 12, fullbacks and tight ends in motion have been swapped out for extra wide receivers and spread formations.

Practice Report

Odom's replacement announced

Coach Gary Pinkel will hire his nephew Alex Grinich to replace safeties coach Barry Odom, the University of Wyoming confirmed Saturday. Grinich had been the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator for Wyoming under former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen.

Grinich is Pinkel's sister's son. 

Big and tall

Saturday's practice ended with what Pinkel called "Big Man 7-on-7." Offensive linemen and defensive linemen scrimmaged (without offensive or defensive lines) for one possession each. Right guard Austin Wuebbels delivered the winning touchdown pass on the final play, a beautiful toss to Quinn Brown on a corner route. Defensive tackle Jimmy Burge struggled at quarterback for the defensive players, going just 1-for-6.

A couple of scuffles

Things got a little feisty between Wuebbels are Jared Parham during drills, and Wuebbels scored a takedown that would have made wrestling coach Brian Smith proud, resulting in a small scuffle.

Robert Steeples and Wesley Leftwich also got into it after Steeples pushed Leftwich into the wall of the Devine Pavilion after a play. Leftwich threw the ball at Steeples and a short confrontation ensued.

Neither fight produced any injuries.

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But Glaser and the rest of the scout team’s job is to simulate the offense of Missouri’s Independence Bowl foe North Carolina as closely as possible. During Saturday's practice, the first-team defense spent a lot of time facing Glaser and the rest of what have become pseudo-Tar Heels.

“They do a lot of shifts, and a lot of motions across, all power I and stuff that’s just really different,” Glaser said. “Some of us don’t like it because we’re so used to running the spread now, but that’s what they run so we’ve got to do it.”

Learning to stop North Carolina’s offense begins with figuring out how to contain freshman running back Giovani Bernard, who is the first Tar Heel to rush for more than 1,000 yards since 1997. When Bernard goes more than 100 yards, the Tar Heels are 5-1. When he doesn’t, they’re 2-4.

“He does a great job of reading off of his blocks, and he’ll cut back. If there’s a hole in the back side, he’ll get there,” linebacker Luke Lambert said of Bernard. “He’s a quick guy, he’s going to make a lot of moves.”

Bernard deserves plenty of credit for the Tar Heels success — he led the ACC in touchdowns with 14, and finished second in rushing yards with 1,222 — but he runs behind a massive offensive line that averages 317 pounds.

“That’s the first thing I noticed,” Lambert said. “Their o-line is really big.”

The scout team can’t simulate the Tar Heels’ size, but according to Jacquies Smith, there aren’t many tactical adjustments the Tigers can make to compensate for North Carolina’s big boys.

“There’s a lot of big offensive lines out there, you just got to be ready to put your hard hat on and be physical,” Smith said. “No matter how big they are, you’ve got to go out there and play physical.”

North Carolina’s offensive line also is responsible for protecting sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner, who, without much fanfare, is ninth in the nation in quarterback rating and has thrown for 23 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Texas is the most similar offense to North Carolina that Missouri has seen this season, which on some level bodes well for the Tigers since they held the Longhorns to 3 offensive points and 247 total yards.

However, coach Gary Pinkel cautioned against quick comparisons to Texas, noting that Renner is significantly better than Texas quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy.

“I think their (North Carolina’s) quarterback is a little bit more experienced than their (Texas’) quarterbacks,” Pinkel said. “I think that’s a little bit different just because he can do a little bit more with the football — play action passes and so on and so forth.”

Glaser, who plays Renner’s role for the scout team, had mixed results during Saturday’s practice. On many of the play action passes, the quarterback was left with a defensive lineman in his place and no time to throw.

On the handoff to Murphy, safety Kenronte Walker and linebacker Zaviar Gooden stuffed Murphy for no gain.

They just hope they can do it on Dec. 26.

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