Ziggy Hood’s importance to the Missouri football team goes beyond his large frame.
Like all defensive tackles, one of Hood’s main jobs is to fill holes to limit the opposition’s running game. But, Hood, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior, does more than just take up space.
Hood had four sacks and forced two fumbles in just seven starts last year. Hood was perhaps the best player on the Missouri defense in the first three games of the season, when he recorded three of those sacks, along with 13 tackles, four of which went for a loss.
But in the Tigers’ third game against New Mexico, Hood broke his right foot. He returned from the injury sooner than expected, missing just three weeks. The injury clearly effected his play, however, and he was unable to make the kind of impact he did early in the year.
Hood said he was frustrated with his play in the last part of the season.
“It was kind of hurting me, because I was kind of hurting the team as well,” he said. “But I was just trying to do everything I could do to go out there and do what I can.”
Hood is fully healthy now, though, and he and senior nose tackle Lorenzo Williams hope to lead a defense that lost six starters from 2006.
“I’m very excited,” Hood said. “I’m ready to get in there and see what I can do for the team.”
Hood said he expects big things from Williams, who had 53 tackles and six sacks a year ago, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
“Zo is amazing,” Hood said. “He’s quick with his hands, he’s got great speed for his size, he’s just amazing. I wish I had as much as knowledge as he does on the field.”
Hood said he tries to help everyone around him improve, from fellow defensive linemen to linebackers and even offensive linemen who he says he talks to about what defenders will try to do against them. Still, he said there isn’t any pressure on him or Williams to be a leader.
“The whole defensive line is leaders of their own,” he said. “There’s really not one leader. It’s everyone helping each other.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has repeatedly said the run defense is an area his team needs to improve on. Hood said he agrees that Missouri struggled at times with that last year.
“It was a lot of things,” he said. “It was just basically Mizzou beating Mizzou, but we have been working on it lately, and this summer we’re going to get better and hopefully follow that up in the season.”
The Tigers defense will depend on several young players this season, but Hood said he has seen a lot of things he likes from them this spring.
“I’ve been noticing the speed to the ball,” he said. “There have been more harder hits, heads to helmets.”
Hood said he expects the defense to benefit from practicing against an offense he called “the best in the Big 12.”
“The offense has got too many weapons,” he said. “Weapons from first depth all the way to third and fourth, there’s weapons everywhere. The defense is doing everything we can to keep up with the offense. We’re stepping up and improving.”
Hood and company will have one more chance to face the offense this spring. The black and gold spring game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Hood said that after dealing with the injury last year, his goal for the upcoming season is simply to stay healthy and keep a positive mind-set.
“Think positive,” he said. “Even when things are going bad, keep your head up and keep pushing.”
NOTES: Thursday’s final practice of the spring was limited to a quick, 45-minute session in shorts and shoulder pads. Afterward, Pinkel reflected on the team’s play.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “We wanted to get better every day that we came out here and for the most part that effort was there. I think we have a lot more potential than what we are doing right now. But, overall, I feel good about the spring.”
n The NCAA voted on Tuesday to ban coaches from using text messaging to contact recruits, a ruling Pinkel said he was disappointed with.
It allowed you the opportunity to outwork people,” he said. “If a player wants to communicate with you they can, if they don’t want to they don’t have to. Some people were concerned about the costs to the athletes, but most kids text message a lot anyway. I’m kind of disappointed about it, because it allowed you to have relationships in a way that they controlled whether they were going to communicate back.”