Much red stood out among the black and gold on the Missouri practice field Sunday evening, but one particular bit of red drew the most attention.
Senior tailback Zack Abron, the incumbent starter who is listed first on the depth chart, wore a red no contact jersey after injuring his left ankle early in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He’s doing OK,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s got a high-ankle sprain and we expect him to be full go by Friday.”
Abron, who needs 984 yards to become Missouri’s rushing leader, wore a cast Sunday and did not participate in drills. Pinkel said the cast is a precaution.
“I don’t really go into detail on that stuff,” Pinkel said. “Our medical staff made that decision and we expect him to be out of it by the end of the week.”
Until Abron is back, it appears sophomore Damien Nash, a junior college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, will work with the first-team offense. If the injury keeps Abron out longer than Pinkel expects, the bulk of the carries would likely go to Nash, though junior walk-on Beau Viehmann and freshman Marcus Woods are also competing for playing time.
Woods has been impressive in practice, but it was Viehmann who stood out in the scrimmage. He had the longest run of the day, 51 yards, and was the most consistent back. Not many people are talking about Viehmann’s accomplishments, though, not even Viehmann. When asked about his strong running Saturday, Viehmann could only talk about his fumble, which tackle Scott Paffrath recovered for the offense.
Nash hasn’t played in two years after redshirting his first year at Coffeyville and missing all of the 2002 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He is outspoken about his talents but hard on himself for his mistakes. He was especially upset about his two fumbles in the scrimmage, but his confidence is hard to overlook.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Nash said during the first week of practice. “I just go out there and play football. I know I’m good and anyone who has seen me play knows I can play.”
MIZZOU ON THE MOVE: Pinkel has made a habit of moving players. Senior Terrence Curry is the latest to relocate, moving from cornerback to outside safety.
“We’re just trying to get our best athletes in the best spots,” Pinkel said. “We’re still kind of sorting all those things out. We’ll see how all that works out.”
This isn’t the first position move for Curry, who missed the past two seasons with knee injuries. He played cornerback as a freshman, but was converted to wide receiver. Curry is listed third on the spring depth chart at one cornerback position, but he will compete with sophomore Jason Simpson and redshirt freshman Marcus Bacon for the starting spot at outside safety.
“I think he’s a great athlete,” Pinkel said. “I think he could play in a lot of different spots, but it’s important that we don’t have too many players stacked in one area. That’s why we made that decision.”
THE HEAT IS ON: Up until this weekend, the Tigers hadn’t had to deal with too much heat during two-a-day practices. On Saturday and Sunday, everything changed. Temperatures climbed well into the 90s both days, but the Tigers, and especially Pinkel, see the rising heat as a blessing.
“I love it,” Pinkel said. “We need it to get a little hotter. We’ll have to play in that kind of environment. It’s been a little too cool during two-a-days, so it’s great for it to get a little hotter.”
Senior center A.J. Ricker said Saturday was the first time the weather became a factor.
“This was a real test, weather-wise,” Ricker said. “We’ve had too nice of weather during two-a-days. This shows us how good we’re going to be when we’re a little bit tired.”
INJURY UPDATE: Freshman Xzavie Jackson, a reserve defensive lineman, will have surgery on his broken foot today. Pinkel said he expects Jackson to be out three to four weeks.
Redshirt freshman Brian Smith, listed first at defensive end, continues to sit out with an eye infection.