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Tigers are riding high expectations

Missouri is picked to win its first-ever Big 12 North title
Sunday, August 5, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:14 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Quarterback Chase Daniel (10) and teammates go through running drills Saturday during their first football practice.

The MU football team’s official Fan Day is this afternoon, but that didn’t stop one fan from making his appreciation heard during the team’s first practice Saturday afternoon.

A truck on Stadium Boulevard passing the practice fields honked multiple times toward the end of the light, two-hour session.

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More honking will be heard around Columbia if the team lives up to its expectations this season as Big 12 Conference North division favorites.

The expectations do not seem to daunt the Tigers.

Especially quarterback Chase Daniel.

He was relaxed during practice, slapping his helmet during drills and shouting across the field to encourage and joke with his teammates. He tried to push around quarterback J.P. Tillman, and after linebacker Marquis Booker picked off a pass from Tillman, Daniel yelled, “You got lucky.” At one point, Daniel even put his arm around running back Tony Temple.

Daniel said the team was more loose and relaxed this year, and his teammates agreed.

“We’re confident,” tight end Martin Rucker said, “but not cocky.”

The return of the key offensive players like Temple, Daniel and Rucker is key.

“With familiar faces around,” Rucker said, “it breeds confidence.”

Daniel got a boost earlier this summer working with some of the best high school and college quarterbacks. He was one of the six collegiate counselors at the EA Sports Elite 11 camp, which brings together 12 of the most highly-rated high school signal-callers. Daniel attended the camp in high school and was invited back in July, joining quarterbacks Chad Henne (Michigan), Nate Longshore (California), Colt Brennan (Hawaii), Andre’ Woodson (Kentucky) and Mark Sanchez (USC) as counselors.

Daniel stood out from his peers during one portion of the four-day camp. He was the runner-up in a college football video-game tournament on xBox 360.

Playing EA Sports’ NCAA Football 08, Daniel’s peers picked their own teams, but unlike Henne helming the Wolverines, Daniel, always competitive, played with the Tigers of LSU, not MU.

“You gotta pick the best team in the game,” he explained.

Daniel’s experience at the camp will be beneficial for the Tigers.

“To know that I can play with them gives me even more confidence to bring back here to the team,” he said.

Daniel exuded that confidence after practice. He said calmly that the team’s goal is to win the Big 12 championship.

The quarterback can get fazed, though. When he met one of his idols this summer, he was speechless like any boy meeting a sports legend.

The Elite 11 camp director wanted Daniel to meet someone named Joe.

“I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up? How ya … whoa. Whoa, hey, you’re Joe Montana,’” he said.

TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS: Coach Gary Pinkel and his staff are making a fashion statement at the beginning of camp. They sported black shirts emblazoned with the message, “It’s all about the BALL.”

The message is focused on the team getting more turnovers than their opponents.

Pinkel said he has been disappointed in the Tigers’ inability to win the turnover margin. He hopes the shirts make an impact, like any effective marketing campaign.

CHOOSING captains: The team selected four senior captains — Rucker, safety Pig Brown, wide receiver Jason Ray and defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams.

Pinkel said the team’s senior leadership was strong compared with earlier seasons.

“It’s a far cry from what it was years ago,” he said, “but that’s consistent with building a program.”

Pinkel said the team could have had up to eight captains, but followed tradition by selecting four.


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