Rebuilding line key for Tigers

Spring practice opens with Pinkel keeping his eye on young players.
Thursday, March 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:53 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is the environment in which Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel wants to develop young players.

Coming off an 8-5 season that included a trip to the Independence Bowl, Pinkel said the atmosphere of the team’s off-season player-development program was significantly improved.

“The whole attitude, everything’s different,” Pinkel said.

The Tigers will begin to see the results of their new attitude on the field today, when they hold their first spring practice at 3 p.m. at the Tom Taylor practice fields.

Missouri will hold 12 practices, two scrimmages and the Black and Gold game over the next two months. The Black and Gold game is 2 p.m. April 10 at Memorial Stadium.

Spring scouting

Pinkel said the coaches would use the spring to evaluate young players, including last year’s redshirts.

“One of the goals of the spring is to identify who can play at a high level in the Big 12,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel said the team’s upperclassmen would play a significant role in helping their less-experienced teammates develop.

“The younger players see the older players and learn from them,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel said the improved attitude last year’s success installed in the team would help the players become better leaders.

“The greatest example is how you act,” Pinkel said.

O-line questions

Offensive line is one position that could require fast development of its young players. The Tigers lost center A.J. Ricker and tackle Rob Droege, who both won postseason All-Big 12 Conference honors, and finding their replacements will be a priority.

Seniors Joe Gianino and Scott Paffrath and junior Tony Palmer are the only returning offensive linemen with significant experience.

Pinkel said a good spring could result in playing time for some young offensive linemen.

“We need to identify another five, six guys that can play for us,” Pinkel said.

Linemen with a chance to move up the depth chart include sophomore Joel Clinger and redshirt freshmen Tyler Luellen, Adam Spieker and Monte Wyrick.

Pinkel said the Tigers do not have as many question marks on defense.

“The defense is probably in a better position than any time since we’ve been here,” Pinkel said.

Nine starters return, and Michigan State transfer David Richard will join the defense at linebacker.

Richard was a running back for the Spartans in 2002, rushing for 654 yards and five touchdowns.

Richard most recently played linebacker as a senior at Hazelwood East and made USA Today’s All-America team.

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