Now in pads, Missouri football ratchets up intensity in second week of spring practices

Lovett earned his number, Drinkwitz laid out his defensive criteria and Young looked the part in the Tigers’ second week of practice.

Missouri Football players arrived at their first spring practice in t-shirts last Friday. On Tuesday, they took the practice fields at the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex in pads, and with that came even more energy and intensity.

If the first week of the spring football season is about developing good habits and setting a standard, then the second is about players becoming more comfortable and pushing their limits. Last week, players learned the expectations and flow of an SEC practice. Now, they can continue to build on that.

“We knew there were going to be mistakes, but do we come back and correct those mistakes tomorrow?” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said after last Friday’s practice. “If we can get better from day one to day two, then we have a chance to have a solid spring.”

Missouri has a new one-two backfield punch

The departure of running back Larry Rountree III left Drinkwitz with some holes to fill in his backfield. Luckily, he already has all the pieces he needs.

Do-it-all senior Tyler Badie will now be the feature back, but sophomore Elijah Young wants to cement himself as the clear second option.

Young averaged 7.8 yards per carry on ten attempts his freshman season. Albeit a small sample size, he showed flashes of his burst and speed that pairs nicely with Badie’s game. While he doesn’t provide the pass-catching threat that Badie does, Young could be even faster.

It appears that way in practice, at least, where he has received the majority of the reps with the second unit.

“It’s a good chance for [Young] to get in, showcase what he can do,” Badie said. “Everyone saw a glimpse of what he can do, but now it’s time for him to step up more and be a guy on and off the field.”

Regardless of how Drinkwitz structures his backfield rotation, it’s clear both Badie and Young will play a lot next season. Paired with Missouri’s explosive receiving corps, the Tigers have plenty of ways to confuse opponents right from the opening snap.

Despite running the offense, Drinkwitz has some defensive criteria

Along with his head coaching duties, Drinkwitz is Missouri’s offensive coordinator. And while he turns most of the defense over to defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and his staff, there are some specific things he wants to see from his defensive unit.

The coach listed his three primary defensive principles after Tuesday’s practice. Drinkwitz wants his teams to stop the run, harass the quarterback and then play situational football by forcing turnovers in the red zone and on third down.

Last season, the Tigers allowed opponents an average of 4.5 yards every time they ran the ball. In its final three games, Missouri gave up at least 150 rushing yards, including 292 yards against Arkansas and 316 against Georgia, both at Faurot Field.

The Tigers picked off just four passes, ahead of only winless Vanderbilt. While the defense finished in the middle of the SEC with 20 sacks, Drinkwitz hopes Wilkes and his staff can improve on those other two categories next season.

“Those are just the results we want,” Drinkwitz said. “When we come in on Monday nights and I ask how we are stopping the run, I expect an answer. [When I ask] how we confuse, harass and hit the quarterback, I expect an answer. Then we got to hold each other accountable to get that done.”

Bazelak continues to work on the deep ball

Shortly following the Tigers’ first spring practice, redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak discussed his goal to improve on his deep ball execution before the 2021 season.

During the open portion of Tuesday’s practice, reporters watched as Bazelak and the rest of Missouri’s quarterback worked through passing progressions, which included deep routes to the sidelines.

Last Friday, reporters watched as Bazelak completed shorter passes. On Tuesday, they saw him really get to test his arm. It will be interesting to see how that develops throughout the spring season.

Other notes

Lovett earns his number

A week ago, Drinkwitz talked about the speed of sophomore transfer receiver Mookie Cooper. On Tuesday, we learned more about freshman receiver Dominic Lovett. Not even five practices into his Missouri career, he’s already earned his number: seven.

Lovett looks the part of an SEC wide receiver. His ability to run precise routes and explode to the ball is easy to notice, even if it hasn’t come against a live defense just yet.

“He’s just been consistent, playing with great effort, making plays,” Drinkwitz said. “He made some explosive plays on Friday and Saturday's practice. I felt like he had earned the opportunity to wear number seven.”

Case Cook to represent Missouri on SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council

Each season, every SEC team elects a player representative to be a part of the SEC’s Student-Athlete Leadership Council. Last season, Missouri elected Rountree III.

This season, it elected one of its leaders on the offensive line, redshirt senior left guard, Case Cook.

“Being the returning permanent captain, we thought that would be a great opportunity for him to continue to display leadership,” Drinkwitz said. “Case is a guy who is consistent in what he does. Whether that be work ethic, practice habits or whatever those things are, he’s consistent in providing those.”

Shawn Robinson continues to learn the safety position

Robinson entered last season as Missouri’s starting quarterback. He enters this one as a safety. When asked about the differences between the two positions, he talked about the extra conditioning, but also what he’s had to do to change his game.

“[Against Mississippi State] I was out there playing, running to the ball and trying to make plays,” Robinson said. “Now, I’m really learning the aspects of leverages, eyes and drop steps.”

Robinson said that he hasn’t looked back after that Mississippi State game and that he is excited to continue learning about his new position.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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