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March 8, 2011

Spring ball begins



Missouri opened spring drills, version 2011, with a two-and-a-half hour workout inside the Devine Pavilion on a rainy day in Columbia. As we will be for each of the Tigers' 15 practices, PowerMizzou.com was on hand and files the day's practice report:

*The first question every day for most people will center around the quarterback position. The first four or five questions to Gary Pinkel were about that.

"I think it makes it that much more important to the fans and all the media," Pinkel said. "I did a lot of different interviews today and that's all I was asked about."

Pinkel stressed that there was "probably more competition because we're recruiting better."

It appeared that James Franklin, Tyler Gabbert and Ashton Glaser all will take reps with various receivers and linemen, giving each an opportunity to stand out.

From the please don't read too much into it category, Franklin appeared to probably have the most success during the 7-on-7 period, which was the only time we had a chance to see the quarterbacks throw against live competition. The sophomore completed his first four passes, hitting Jerrell Jackson on the back shoulder down the sideline.

However, this isn't a question that is going to be answered in a day or a week. In fact, the starter won't likely be named until some time in fall camp. Each quarterback did have some standout moments. Glaser hit Michael Egnew with a beauty down the deep middle. We'll get to Gabbert's best throw later in the report.

*Some housekeeping notes on day one. Adam Burton has had three knee surgeries and will take a medical redshirt this year. George White was not at practice as Pinkel said he is dealing with the death of a family member.

Number changes from last year: Marcus Murphy is now 6, Henry Josey is 20, Greg White is 24, Randy Ponder is 7, Braylon Webb is 8 and Tristen Holt is 2.

*Early special teams notes. Murphy, Gahn McGaffie, T.J. Moe, E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards were all working on punt returns. Terry Dennis, Joe Plevel and Steven Drain were deep snapping with Beau Brinkley injured. Brandon Gerau and Braylon Webb were the holders.

*Best name on the roster goes to walk-on linebacker Bill Romanow (not Romanowski).

*A couple of guys that physically impressed me were Michael Sam, who looks much bigger and quick, and Webb, who had more speed than I remembered. Jimmie Hunt looked to have a lot of wiggle and elusiveness in passing drills. But no player physically stood out more than Kony Ealy, who dominated his men in one-on-one passing drills while I watched. In fact, one time, he got to the tackling dummy so quickly that the GA who catches snaps couldn't get out of the way. Ealy took down the pad and the coach. With Marcus Malbrough out injured, Ealy will have a chance to make his mark.

*Also injured are linebackers Luke Lambert and Will Ebner. With those two out, Andrew Wilson is starting in the middle and Donovan Bonner outside opposite Zaviar Gooden. Both Lambert and Ebner told us they're unsure where they'll line up when they return, only that the coaches have said the three best linebackers will play.

*A few notes from one-on-one passing drills:

Kenronte Walker did a nice job breaking up a pass to Andrew Jones. Later in the practice, he knocked one away from Bud Sasser. Had it been live, Walker may have decleated the receiver. He'll be in the mix at safety for sure.

Marcus Lucas made a nice sliding catch. I'm intrigued to watch Lucas, who brought in a ton of hype and I thought showed some potential late last season.

Eric Waters made a couple of nice leaping grabs. I'm interested to see him as well as he is the heir apparent to Egnew.

Tristen Holt had a nice interception against James Franklin, one of Franklin's few misplaced passes.

*Some notes, finally, from line drills:

Jack Meiners (who recently broke the school squat record with five reps of 800 pounds), started well beating Brad Madison, but Madison got his revenge the next time the two matched up.

Brayden Burnett showed nice speed going around Mark Hill.

Lucas Vincent used impressive power to go right through Nick Demien on one rep I saw.

Anthony Gatti and Michael Sam split a pair of matchups.

*Play of the Day: I mentioned we'd get back to Tyler Gabbert. He lined up about a 30-yard pass down the right sideline for Wes Kemp. Safety Tavon Bolden looked primed for the pick, but as Bolden raced to the receiver, the ball beat him there by a split second. Kemp ignored the distraction of the defender, made the catch and walked into the end zone as Bolden bounced off him.

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