Defensive line coming through for Missouri football

Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 4:07 p.m. CDT; updated 6:47 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 9, 2012
Missouri defensive linemen Jimmy Burge, left, and Michael Sam wait for their turn during practice on Thursday at Faurot Field. It was the eighth day of training camp for the Tigers.

COLUMBIA — During a defensive line drill, senior Brad Madison ripped through all three tackling dummies that had been set up Thursday morning at Missouri football practice.

Madison did not stop. He continued his rampage and knocked over a trash can on the sideline at Faurot Field.

"I didn't mean to hit it so hard," he laughed. "I didn't mean to knock it over."

Madison, who says he does not play with anger, quickly picked up the mess and put the trash can upright again.

Madison says he is good about keeping a level head on the field and controlling his emotions.

The same could not be said for everyone on the team. Some of the Tigers are starting to get frustrated at practice. Several short skirmishes broke out during the morning practice on the eighth day of training camp.

"You're out here practicing against each other every day. You get frustrated," Madison said. "After practice you're back to best friends again. It's hot, you've been practicing hard, you're ready to hit somebody else, but I think we'll be all right."

After one play during 11-on-11 drills, senior safety Kenronte Walker shoved receiver Marcus Lucas, who immediately shoved back with one hand. Then, sophomore defensive end Kony Ealy pushed Lucas.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said nothing got out of hand during practice.

"We've had a lot worst than that," he said.

There was a lot of tension between the offense and defense, who have competed against each other in 11-on-11 drills since the team began practicing with full pads. The day's winner gets to watch the other team do up-downs at the end of practice and gets to wear black jerseys the next day. The losers wear white. The defense has won every day so far.

Pinkel said he thinks the competition helps the players benefit more from each practice.

"The way our practices are designed, we have winners and losers" Pinkel said. "You're just not going through the drill to get through the drill. You're going through to win the drill."

The defensive line had a strong performance, with redshirt junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Ealy and junior defensive end Michael Sam getting in the backfield often to disrupt the offense. Madison sat out 11-on-11 drills with with a rib cartilage injury, but he said he expects to be back soon.

On one play, Sam got through the offensive line and tackled senior running back Jared McGriff-Culver in the end zone for a safety.

After the defensive line caused quarterback James Franklin to leave the pocket on one play and throw the ball out of bounds on the next, the offense adjusted to try and take advantage of the aggressive pass rush.

On the next play when Sam and Ealy got through the offensive line quickly, Franklin lofted the football over the pass rushers to senior running back Kendial Lawrence, who was stopped on the left side of the field for a short gain.

Madison and Sam, who say pass rushing is their strength, said the defense must communicate when defending the screen. Players on the defensive line must rely on linebackers and defensive backs on the type of play that often draws pass rushers out of position.

The defense beat the offense in 11-on-11 drills Thursday, but there were some bright spots for the offense. Franklin was throwing again after resting his arm for two practices. He completed a pass to senior wide receiver Gahn McGaffie on a well-timed throw for 12 yards.

Freshman wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is getting more involved with the third-team offense. During goal-line drills, he caught a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone on a fade route. Not long after, he made a leaping catch as he crossed the back of the end zone, tapping his feet down before his momentum carried him out of bounds. Green-Beckham also practiced returning kicks.

NOTES: The Tigers' first scrimmage of training camp is scheduled for Saturday. Pinkel said he will not know which injured players will be able to participate in the scrimmage until Friday evening.

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