The Missouri football team’s offense had an extra spring in its step Saturday.
Offense dominated the team’s first spring scrimmage.
“The offense was ahead of our defense a little bit,” coach Gary Pinkel said.
Starting quarterback Brad Smith split snaps equally with reserves Brandon Coleman and Chase Patton.
Pinkel said all three impressed him.
“Both the young quarterbacks were doing some good things,” he said. “There’s some real competition and a real battle going on there, and that is a good thing.”
Coleman and Patton both ran the ball effectively and connected on a handful of long passes while running plays out of a spread-shotgun formation.
Pinkel said he is experimenting with a spread offense this spring. Smith said it is allowing the quarterbacks more of an opportunity to scramble and run with the ball and receivers to run routes downfield.
Coleman’s longest pass of the day was a 50-yard connection with receiver Arnold Britt after Coleman rolled out of the pocket.
The option was also used during the scrimmage with varying success. Coleman was twice unable to connect on pitches but Smith effectively ran the play several times.
Despite the offense’s new look, Smith said the biggest change from last fall is the mentality of the team.
“The big difference is our focus,” Smith said.
Pinkel said one of the main concerns he has with the team is its toughness.
“We’ve got go block better,” he said. “I don’t think we are a tough enough football team on the interior right now.”
Last season, the Tigers’ rushing offense fell to No. 7 from No. 1 in the Big 12 the previous year. Inexperience on the offensive line was a contributing factor, and the coaching staff recruited junior-college transfers Matt Russell and Louis Pintola to bring experience to the line. Both saw time during the scrimmage.
Russell said he feels the line has jelled since he and Pintola arrived on campus in January.
“We’re all getting along so well,” he said. “We are already all best friends.”
Britt and some of the younger receivers saw more time in the scrimmage because of injuries to starters Sean Coffey and Will Franklin.
Coffey, a senior who is the Tigers’ top returning receiver, suffered a shoulder sprain while making a catch over the middle during Thursday’s practice.
Pinkel said Tigers safety Jason Simpson delivered the hit that might keep Coffey out for the reminder of spring practice but should not linger into the fall.
Franklin had knee surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear he suffered on March 17.
The Tigers’ first-team offense was also without starting tailback Marcus Woods and lineman Tyler Luellen.
Pinkel said redshirt freshman running backs Jimmy Jackson and Earl Goldsmith looked impressive in Woods’ place.
“Those guys are very quick guys who can catch the football, and with the things we’re trying to do out there, they fit pretty good,” he said.
Pinkel also praised the performance of sophomore running back Tony Temple, who is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Woods.
“He had a great practice,” he said. “He fumbled the ball a few times today, but he has been doing some very good things. He’s showing he has got the chance to become an electrifying player.”