Missouri football coaches prep players in fall camp

Monday, August 18, 2014 | 10:35 p.m. CDT; updated 7:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Marcus Murphy takes a break from the heat to get some water during a scrimmage held during summer camp on Aug. 12.

COLUMBIA — Missouri's Dave Steckel waxed philosophic after Monday's practice.

The Tigers' defensive coordinator paraphrased a quote often attributed to Roger Bannister, the first person credited with running a world record sub-four-minute mile.

"You're either a lion or a gazelle," Steckel said. "When you get up in the morning, you better get your ass running."

Steckel's rendition is more succinct — and more pointed — than Bannister's. Perhaps it's a message Missouri needed to hear on a hot August day as it muddled through an "OK" practice, in the words of head coach Gary Pinkel.

At the start of the final week of fall camp, there is a sense of urgency. Missouri's coaches have had time to review film from the second scrimmage. They know where they need to improve. And with hot temperatures forecast for the rest of week, Steckel and the other coaches know they'll need stronger efforts from their players if the Tigers are to be game-ready.

At the end of practice, after he accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by tight end Sean Culkin, a dripping-wet Pinkel addressed the media.

His assessment of practice was as cool as his soaked T-shirt. The heat affected practice, Pinkel said. It wasn't a bad practice, he said, but he wanted to see his players "get a little more mentally tough and work through it (the heat)."

Offensive coordinator Josh Henson also talked about the mental aspect of football. After evaluating Saturday's scrimmage film, Henson said his offense started slow. That can change, Henson said, with his players being focused in practices and scrimmages.

"To me it's all a mental thing," Henson said, adding that he wants his players "at optimal arousal and ... ready to go" when they step onto the football field.

Henson said that he and his players will work to improve the offense's consistency this week. And he hinted that the offense needed to play with more guts and gusto.

"I think we need to finish better," Henson said. "Finishing blocks, finishing runs, finishing to the ball as a receiver, making a tough catch — all those things we can improve on."

On the defensive side of the ball, Steckel highlighted three issues he wants his defense to address this week.

The defensive coordinator said the Tigers need to swarm to the ball more quickly — making tackles and plays. "We need to be a lot better in pursuit," Steckel said.

And the coach hammered on the fundamentals. His players need to learn the details of their respective positions, Steckel said. And they have to "rep it (fundamental drills) over and over and over" until they understand the finer points of their roles.

Lastly, Steckel said that Tiger defenders need to communicate better — and hinted that they need to remember their schemes.

"There's some times where certain guys are playing one defense and other guys are playing a different defense," he said. "We're not going to be successful unless we all communicate together."

In terms of communication, Pinkel and Steckel might use different means to motivate Missouri this week.

The Tigers are less than two weeks away from their season opener Aug. 30 against South Dakota State. Pinkel said he was happy for Monday's heat, which challenged the players and created a tough circumstance for them.

The weather projects to be toasty again Tuesday and Thursday, when the Tigers practice on Faurot Field's artificial turf. The turf, Pinkel said, raises the temperature by 15-20 degrees.

Steckel might be turning up the heat in a different way. He put Bannister's quote on his office wall, he said. Maybe he'll repeat his version of it to his players:

"Every morning, the lion and the gazelle gets up in Africa," Steckel said. "The lion's got to run as fast as the slowest gazelle or he'll starve to death.

"Every morning in Africa a gazelle gets up. He better run faster than the slowest gazelle — or he'll get eaten alive."

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

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