COLUMBIA — After a day off from practice, the Missouri football team had a very competitive practice Monday at the Kadlec Athletic Fields.
In a drill pitting individual offensive lineman against defensive lineman, senior guard Jack Meiners stood out, not allowing the defensive end to even touch the tackling dummy representing the quarterback.
Players in red jerseys (did not fully participate): receiver T.J. Moe (hamstring), recevier L'Damian Washington (shoulder), receiver Jimmy Hunt (foot), receiver Rolandis Woodland (knee), tight end Eric Waters (knee), linebacker Zaviar Gooden (ankle), offensive tackle Justin Britt (foot), offensive tackle Chris Freeman (knee), and cornerback Kip Edwards (leg).
Evan Boehm, the true freshman guard listed at 290 pounds, worked with the first team Monday and struggled a bit during the drill.
In goal line drills, redshirt freshman receiver Wesley Leftwich caught a touchdown on a fade pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser. Junior receiver Marcus Lucas ran to the end zone to congratulate Leftwich, as the two jumped in the air and performed the sideways version of a chest bump.
Lucas struggled, however, going against junior cornerback E.J. Gaines. On one play, Gaines nearly knocked Lucas out of bounds before he could get into his route. Quarterback James Franklin, who was looking for Lucas on the play, was forced to throw the ball away.
Later, Franklin threw a fade pass to Lucas in the right corner of the end zone, but the 6-foot-5 wide receiver could not come down with the ball because of the tight coverage from the 5-foot-10 Gaines. Coach Gary Pinkel spoke highly of the physical cornerback.
"He always practices well," Pinkel said. "I don't ever remember (cornerbacks) coach (Cornell) Ford ever saying, 'He just didn't play very well.' It never comes up. He always plays well."
On a play from the 9-yard line, senior linebacker Will Ebner saved a touchdown by tackling senior receiver Gahn McGaffie before he could reach the goal line. Senior linebacker Zaviar Gooden, who sat out portions of practice with a minor ankle injury, praised his teammate.
"He just brings toughness and dominance in the middle. You know, he's a very hard hitter, he's a very smart guy, and he's a leader on the defense," Gooden said. "You can just count on him. He's accountable."
Ebner was granted an extra year of eligibility after missing most of last season to injury. He will play in the middle of an experienced linebacker group including Gooden and junior Andrew Wilson. Pinkel expressed high hopes for the linebackers after the scrimmage Saturday.
"We also know how physical he (Ebner) is – getting him and Andrew Wilson on the field at the same time, we’ve got two real physical linebackers. If he can stay healthy, that’ll be great."
Wilson filled in for Ebner last year, starting 12 games and leading the team in tackles with 98. Gooden has started 26 games, while Ebner has started 16.
Gooden said he feels like the three have developed chemistry playing together.
"Experience is your best teacher. So, you know, you go through it. You just become a smarter player," Gooden said. "Everyone thinks football is all physical, but it's just as much mental as physical.
"Just knowing offensive coordinators, watching film, studying film, learning what offensive like to do, where they try to go and how they try to set you up for plays, and just knowing where to be."