Putting the Missouri football team in full pads today for the first time this preseason might be more of a necessity than part of the regular practice plan.
Thursday’s two-hour practice at Memorial Field, with players in upper body pads and helmets, featured some hard hits by the offense and defense.
Plays like the one that left wide receiver Trenile Washington on his back after a hard hit from defensive back Steve Redmond caused Washington to drop a pass were typical.
Coach Gary Pinkel said before the players start practice today they will have a meeting and spend about 15 minutes discussing the proper way to hit in full pads and avoid injury.
“Our players are pretty good about knowing how to practice,” Pinkel said. “They got a little too aggressive out there, but they just want to get some pads on.
“It will be a much, much more physical practice, I mean, remarkably more physical. But hopefully you won’t see players on the ground and leaving their feet.”
Although the hitting was beyond what he wanted a few times, Pinkel said that competitiveness helps the team achieve its goals.
“Each player’s got to come off the field a better player than what he came on,” Pinkel said. “That’s kind of really the focus of what we try to do with our whole football team.”
Quarterback Brad Smith responded to the raised intensity in seven-on-seven scrimmages, connecting with wide receiver Sean Coffey twice for 40-yard passes and once with wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu for a 50-yard gain before the coaches blew the whistle to stop the play.
WORKING AS A UNIT: Offensive lineman are not the fastest players on the team, but they showed Thursday that they know how to help one another.
During sprints at the end of practice, the lineman crowded around Aaron Saunders, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound freshman and yelled encouragement through each sprint from one sideline to the other and back. In the final sprint, four of Saunders’ fellow linemen pulled him by his shirt and pushed him from behind so the group could finish the sprint in the time the coaching staff allotted.
Saunders then put his arms around his teammates to thank them for their help.
“That’s what teamwork is all about,” Pinkel said. “A young guy’s having trouble, and you got three guys, they made sure, if they had to throw him across the line, they made sure he was going to get across.”
GRANDPA PINKEL: Pinkel’s mind might have wandered a few times during Wednesday’s practice because he was waiting for an important phone call.
“(Media Relations Director Chad Moller) had my cell phone, and I kept looking up (from the field) thinking we would get the call,” Pinkel said.
His daughter, Erin Hendershott, gave birth to Pinkel’s first grandchild, Madison Aileen Hendershott, at 9:34 p.m in Toledo, Ohio.
Madison weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces and was 21 3/4 inches.