The Missouri Tigers know this much about their new left tackle: He has some fight.
Missouri held its second preseason scrimmage this morning on Faurot Field.
INJURY UPDATE: Five players were held out of the scrimmage, but Gary Pinkel expects a few to return next week, possibly Tuesday, including DE Brad Madison (shoulder), WR Jerrell Jackson (hamstring) and C Travis Ruth (Achilles’ tendon).TE Eric Waters and WR Kerwin Stricker also sat out with injuries, though LT Justin Britt was back after suffering a mild ankle sprain Tuesday.
HIGHLIGHTS: TB Kendial Lawrence ripped off another 60-yard touchdown run, his third in two scrimmages. … CB Trey Hobson intercepted two passes, including a throw by QB Jimmy Costello he returned for a touchdown. … Hobson also intercepted QB Corbin Berkstresser, who got picked earlier by LB Tony Randolph.
QUOTATABLE: “He’s got great speed, and he hit a crease. Maybe if a couple of the other guys hit the same crease, they could have made it. He’s working hard and doing a good job, but we’re going to play all three of those guys. We understand that.” — Pinkel on Lawrence’s run and the tailback competition with De’Vion Moore and Henry Josey
Late in Saturday’s scrimmage, some jawing between Justin Britt and defensive end Kony Ealy turned into pushing, which turned into punching, which turned into one angry Gary Pinkel. Missouri’s coach ejected both from the scrimmage and sentenced them to post-practice gassers. Britt’s role in the brawl was particularly troubling: Fists started flying just as the offense was driving into the red zone in the two-minute drill.
Britt spent the last three days completing 1,000 yards worth of extra running after practice.
“I brought it upon myself, but I just try to make it fun,” Britt said yesterday after offensive line coaches Josh Henson and Bruce Walker chaperoned each of his trips up and down Faurot Field. “I tell the coaches — they give me crap — but I just tell them this is extra conditioning that I want to do to get better.”
Missouri’s offensive linemen are getting good at making the most of a bad situation. They’ve had plenty of practice lately.
On Saturday, center Travis Ruth strained his Achilles’ tendon, indefinitely sidelining the line’s only new starter. On Monday, the line lost its best and most experienced player when left tackle Elvis Fisher blew out his patellar tendon, a season-ending injury.
The coaches reshuffled the front five, but midway through Tuesday’s practice, Britt, the new left tackle, rolled his left ankle, suffering a mild sprain. He sat out most drills yesterday. By the end of practice, the line had undergone a total makeover in 96 hours, save for right guard Austin Wuebbels.
In the course of four days, Jayson Palmgren moved from left guard to center … Dan Hoch moved from right tackle to left tackle … Jack Meiners moved from second-team right tackle to first-team left guard to first-team right tackle … Mark Hill moved from second-team right guard to first-team left guard … and Britt moved from second-team left guard to first-team left guard to first-team left tackle to, finally, the sideline.
“We have the best training staff in the nation to get us ready,” said Britt, who returned to action during today’s scrimmage, the second of the preseason. “We will be ready, and we’ll have the right O-line out there whenever the time comes.”
“Knock on wood, hopefully in a couple weeks we’re healthy and ready to go,” Henson said. “I’ve been through seasons where these things happen. Guys have to step up.”
That starts with Britt, a redshirt sophomore whose listed measurables are identical to Fisher’s. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound former state champion wrestler has never started a game but he’s not lacking experience. Henson said Britt played more than 380 snaps last season, which is about the equivalent to six full games.
In contrast, Fisher had zero college playing experience when he made his first start three years ago against Illinois.
“Justin knows he can get the job done,” Henson said. “When you’re prepared, you’re confident. I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re prepared.”
At Lebanon High School, Britt anchored the offensive line for a spread offense that threw for nearly 3,400 yards his senior year. A natural at left tackle, Britt provided a clean pocket for quarterback Ryan Howerton, a former MU walk-on, getting beat for only one sack on more than 400 pass attempts in 2008. Britt also starred on the wrestling mat, winning the Class 4 state heavyweight title his senior year with a 45-0 record, including a semifinal victory over Lee’s Summit freshman — and 2012 MU commitment — Evan Boehm.
Lebanon football Coach Will Christian said Britt was an impossible matchup for bigger, heavier heavyweights because “he wrestled like a little guy.”
“He would take shots and do things that smaller wrestlers would do,” Christian said. “He’s just a great athlete in space.”
The hand-to-hand combat extended to the line of scrimmage, but Britt set himself apart with his temperament. Christian said Britt first attracted Missouri’s attention during a team camp in Columbia when Pinkel’s coaches saw his mean streak on full display.
“He’s not only gifted, athletic and big, but he’s also nasty,” Christian said. “He’s a physical player. The more he gets comfortable, the more he settles in there, I think he’s got a chance to be one of the best.”
Missouri would prefer that happens sooner than later.
Reach Dave Matter at 573-815-1781 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.