Focus on present for MU defender

Tuesday, August 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:54 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 27, 2008

When he is on the field, Missouri cornerback Calvin Washington follows a motto he would never try in school. Forget, and as quickly as possible.

“That’s a little DB thing, you’ve got to have a short memory,” Washington said. “The life of a DB, you’re going to get beat sometimes. You’ve just got to forget that, go out on the next play and try to capitalize.”

When he joined the team in 2001, Washington played wide receiver. That lasted about three days.

“It was a short, short career,” Washington said.

Midway through freshman camp, coaches moved Washington, a sophomore from Lancaster, Texas, to cornerback. He played in 11 games as a true freshman, but redshirted the next season to work more on fundamentals. When he played on the Tigers’ scout team, Washington learned from what he called “the best of the best” - Justin Gage, former Tiger and wide receiver for the Chicago Bears.

“(Coaches) told me to stick Justin wherever he went,” Washington said. “That was a great thing for me.”

Washington is listed at 6 feet, 192 pounds, but secondary coach Matt Eberflus said Washington put on weight in summer workouts to reach 200 pounds. He won most improved defensive back at the end of spring practices and is at the top of the depth chart.

“He’s really quiet, but he’s confident,” Eberflus said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger. Hopefully he’ll bring consistent play back there.”

The Tigers practiced twice on Monday for the final time. Washington said MU’s pass defense, which was the worst in the Big 12 in 2002 giving up 282.6 yards per game, should be improved.

“We’re kind of playing in sync now, so that’s pretty much coming along,” Washington said.

GOTTA WEAR SHADES: Practicing for the first time since Friday after he scratched his left eye, defensive end Brian Smith wore sunglasses under his helmet at Monday’s morning practice.

Smith said he might have touched a cleaning solution used on bathroom countertops and then touched his eye while he was taking out his contact lenses on Friday night.

“When I was blinking, the skin was catching on to my eyelid, so that was putting me through a lot of pain,” Smith said.

After attempting to fall asleep in the residence halls where the Tigers are staying, around 3 a.m. Saturday, Smith, a redshirt freshman from Denton, Texas, walked over to the University Hospital emergency room. Part of the treatment requires Smith to have his eye dialated.

Smith (6-3, 220) is listed as first-string on the preseason depth chart.

“You surprised me this morning,” offensive lineman Rob Droege said to Smith in the lobby of the Tom Taylor building after Monday’s morning practice. “I looked across and couldn’t see your eyes.”

The sunglasses were a temporary solution. Coaches snapped a tinted visor onto Smith’s helmet for Monday’s afternoon practice.

HE’S BACK: Junior tailback Tyrone Roberson chose baseball over football this past spring, but after reconsidering, he asked MU coach Gary Pinkel at the beginning of the summer if he could rejoin the Tigers. By the first day of summer school classes., Roberson was participating in summer workouts.

“I just felt like it was something I needed to do, I needed to finish it off,” Roberson said. “I felt like there was emptiness in me.”

Roberson played in 10 games in 2002, averaged 3.9 yards per carry and scored one touchdown. At the beginning of preseason practices, he played mostly with the third team.

In the past few practices, that has changed. Monday, while injured senior tailback Zack Abron paced the sidelines, Roberson practiced with the first-string offense. Abron sprained his ankle in Saturday’s scrimmage and is expected to return to practice on Friday.

“(Roberson’s) just matured,” Pinkel said. “After missing spring, he’s picked things up really easy.”

FEELIN’ HOT HOT HOT: At the end of Monday’s morning practice, the Tigers did not run their usual sprints around Faurot Field or do pushups and situps. Pinkel said he was pleased the weather was warmer so practice conditions would be more realistic, but he doesn’t want too many more scorchers.

“Honestly, I don’t think you want it four, five, or six, seven days in a row because after a while it defeats itself,” Pinkel said. “Anybody can do it when it’s cool out. It’s difficult to do it when it’s hot.”

After MU’s Aug. 30 season opener against Illinois in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the starting times of its next three games are in the afternoon.

“If you don’t prepare in this stuff, you’re in trouble,” Pinkel said.

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