GP adjusting anything is an improvement, and I like what I am hearing about the changes Henson has made on the offense, especially TE play and DGB getting more touches. But, being a Mizzou fan has always required optimism in August.
This year Gary Pinkel is adjusting his plan. The Tigers will limit hitting in this year’s fall camp in the hopes of actually reaching September with a full roster intact. Former Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel has given the move his stamp of approval:
“We were campaigning for it back in ’06, ’07 and ’08. We went through some pretty strenuous camps there. But that’s how he is, he’s a physical coach…
I think he’s learning in the SEC, the most physical conference in football. You’ve got to have your guys healthy week in and week out. I know he’s a big practice guy, he really is. But he also understands, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get my guys ready for games.’”
Pinkel plans to cut down on hitting in some drills while also doing away with two-a-days altogether. He’s receiving praise for his willingness to change. Sounds good.
But here’s the rub. From 2006 through 2008 — when Pinkel was running “strenuous camps” — the Tigers ran up 30 wins in three years. Those seasons weren’t scuttled by injuries suffered in August.
Also, longtime SEC fans know that teams going the “less physical” route during preseason practice often have a rough go of it once the regular season arrives. A good example is Georgia’s 2010 football team. Mark Richt limited the amount of hitting done during the Dawgs’ fall camp, UGA went 6-7 on the year, and then the coach went back to basics. After returning to a more hit-happy camp in 2011, Richt saw an immediate return on his investment. He repeatedly said in 2011 that his squad was “more physical” than it had been in 2010. In ’11 and ’12 combined Georgia has gone 22-6.
That’s not to say that beating a team to death in the fall is an end-all, be-all must. But history across the league suggests that more physical preseason camps lead to more physical football teams. Missouri cornerback EJ Gaines doesn’t buy into that history. “I feel like as a defense, as an offense, we’re physical and Coach Pinkel knows that. That’s why he feels like he can back off a little bit.”
Not sure about you, but Mizzou didn’t look like a very physical squad in this writer’s eyes last season.
While Pinkel is correct in his belief that cutting back on hitting drills will also cut back on the chances for injury — that’s obvious — everyone knows that some injuries can occur in non-contact drills, too. If Pinkel and crew get through August will a healthy squad his decision to ease up a bit will be judged a success.
The real results, though, will come between September and November. And if the Tigers get pushed around again this year — MU finished 12th in SEC rushing offense and ninth in rushing defense last season — expect there to be plenty of talk about Pinkel’s decision to put his guys in bubble wrap this month.