COLUMBIA — At Saturday morning's scrimmage, Missouri football's offense will have another chance to break what has become a trend.
Throughout the 15 days of fall practice, the defense has prevailed during full-team competition. In Tuesday's first scrimmage, the 'D' came out on top 14-12 in the scoring system devised by the coaches.
"It goes down to one or two plays at the very end, and the defense has been making plays," coach Gary Pinkel said after Friday morning's practice on Faurot Field. "Every single (day), almost, either team has had a chance to win."
On Saturday, the unit is expected to be without redshirt sophomore cornerback John Gibson, a listed starter who is nursing a hamstring injury. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Matt Hoch and redshirt sophomore linebacker Donavin Newsom — other listed starters nursing maladies of their own — will likely stay on the sidelines again after both were held out Tuesday.
Wide receivers Gavin Otte and Eric Laurent on Friday were also donning red pullovers reserved for injured players, as was running back Morgan Steward. They are not expected to take part Saturday.
Returning from the injuries that kept them out Tuesday will be starting right tackle Connor McGovern and safety Braylon Webb.
Pinkel said "the goal" will be to see 35 plays each from the first-, second- and third-string groups during the scrimmage, scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m.
Here's some of what we'll be watching:
The senior tailback is being called upon to alleviate dwindling depth in the receiving corps. Murphy spent most of camp's first week practicing with the wideouts, and lined up exclusively in the slot at Tuesday's scrimmage, in which he collected four catches for short gains. Pinkel said Friday he and his staff had yet to discuss how Murphy would be involved Saturday.
Entering the summer listed as the backup right tackle, Taylor Chappell impressed in Tuesday's scrimmage and now finds himself vying for the starting job at right guard. On Wednesday, offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said the 6-foot-5, 300-pound redshirt junior was "even" with Mitch Hall on the depth chart.
Ricker added that Chappell's position move was made in the staff's usual effort to identify the best combination of players up front. Mentioning starting left guard Anthony Gatti's name, Pinkel suggested that further shuffling could be done before the team's season-opener against South Dakota State on Aug. 30. Gatti has experience at tackle from his previous three seasons with the team.
The 'big bear'
With Hoch sidelined for another scrimmage, his listed backup, sophomore defensive tackle Josh Augusta, will once again be able to showcase the up-and-coming talent that has coaches raving lately.
Some teammates have taken to calling the 6-foot-4, 330-pounder "big bear."
"When he puts them paws on you, that's the end," linebacker Darvin Ruise said Thursday.
Augusta, who was in on a sack and pass breakup at Tuesday's scrimmage, said he improved his max bench press over the offseason from 325 pounds to 406.
"If I don’t start," he said, "I'm gonna be the best SEC backup there is."
Pinkel said Friday his staff has "circled some guys we think are very close" to being able to contribute in their first year on campus.
With the expected absences of Otte and Laurent on Saturday, freshman receivers Nate Brown, Lawrence Lee and Thomas Richard could see their reps increase, especially if Murphy spends more of the scrimmage at running back. Brown and Richard each had four catches while Lee had three in Tuesday's scrimmage.
Cornerback Logan Cheadle, who broke up two passes Tuesday, could also see his time on the field increase Saturday due to Gibson's injury.
"They're still battling," Pinkel said Friday of the signal-callers looking to be Maty Mauk's most trusted reserve.
Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill on Wednesday called the competition between junior Corbin Berkstresser and redshirt freshman Eddie Printz "even."
"They’ve both done some great things (but), at the same time, they’ve got to be consistently doing that," he said.
According to stats provided by MU athletics, the two each tossed 29 passes with no interceptions in Tuesday's scrimmage. Printz recorded 16 completions for 116 yards. Berkstesser connected 14 times for 115 yards.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.