Big 12: Travis Ruth

Missouri dealing with the cost of injuries

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
4:00
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After Missouri's first drive against Arizona State, all De'Vion Moore could do was watch from the sideline with his ankle wrapped in ice.

The Tigers were down another starter -- they entered Friday night's game without six -- and a backfield with four ready running backs was reduced to one.

Two offensive linemen were sidelined, including starting center Travis Ruth with a sprained knee. All-Big 12 left tackle Elvis Fisher will miss the season after injuring his patellar tendon in fall camp.

Senior linebacker Will Ebner also missed the game after suffering a high-ankle sprain against Miami (Ohio), right before Jacquies Smith went out with a dislocated elbow. Kendial Lawrence also suffered a broken fibula, and Jerrell Jackson dressed for Friday's loss but didn't play because of a hamstring injury.

"This is my 21st year as a head coach, and I’ve been fortunate enough not to be in this situation. But we handle it around here," said coach Gary Pinkel. "Obviously, we’re a different football team than we were August 1st."

It might be a team forced to do some unconventional things in the near future to adjust. Receiver T.J. Moe gets some touches in Missouri's running game with jet sweeps and direct snaps, but that role might be a bigger one with 190-pound Henry Josey the last man left standing with any experience in the backfield.

"We’ve discussed that we can do some things with T.J. Obviously, he can do a lot of things," Pinkel said. "We’ll put plays in for him, hopefully from a preparation standpoint, just a backup."

Moe joked after Friday's loss that he could line up at running back, but Pinkel says more work will be available for 250-pound walk-on fullback Jared Culver, as well as freshman back Greg White.

"Big game, a big arena, he has not carried the football once. I did not want to [play White]. Bottom line," Pinkel said.

Missouri hosts FCS opponent Western Illinois on Saturday after suffering the Big 12's only loss through two weeks of play.

"We’re not going to have excuses. Players understand that people have got to step it up," Pinkel said. "We live with reality. The kiss of death to me is feeling sorry for ourselves or for anybody within our organization. We don’t do that here."
Ouch. Those are the losses that hurt the most for fans.

Missouri stormed back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth-quarter, but settled for a deep field-goal attempt late in the fourth quarter and -- in what's sure to be a controversial decision -- iced its own kicker.

Grant Ressel missed the 48-yard kick and the game went into overtime, where Missouri couldn't match Arizona State's touchdown and lost, 37-30.

Let's start with the nasty stuff.

THE BAD
  • Argue the statistics surrounding icing kickers all you'd like. It's dubious if not counterproductive. But I've never seen a coach ice his own kicker, and unless Ressel explicitly asked for Pinkel to do it, I don't see the benefit. Additionally, Missouri went superconservative offensively once it was in field goal range, instead of fighting to get an easier attempt. Both of those decisions are ripe for second-guessing, and will be digested to no end throughout the week for the black-and-gold inclined. Outside of being embarrassingly unconventional, I don't see the huge harm of the kicker icing. I do think the Tigers needed to keep running their usual offense and ride the wave of momentum that got them there, rather than settle for a big kick from Ressel, who is usually reliable and a legitimate Lou Groza Award candidate.
  • Ouch, secondary. It was out of position a lot throughout the night, and failed to make plays when it was in position several times. E.J. Gaines especially had a rough night, getting burned twice for scores by Aaron Pflugrad, who finished with eight catches for 180 yards. The secondary solidified late in the game, which was good to see, but Missouri took a huge step defensively under coordinator Dave Steckel last season. It looks like this year, with young corners, it may take a step back. There's lots of room for growth, sure, but the Tigers better do it fast. There are a lot better offenses than Arizona State waiting for the Tigers in the Big 12. Osweiler would probably be the fifth or sixth best QB in the Big 12, and he finished with 353 yards, three TDs, no turnovers and completed 24 of 32 (77 percent) passes. Not good.
  • The flip side of those secondary struggles? Where was the defensive line? The Tigers are the most talented in the Big 12, but didn't look like it on Friday. It didn't reach Osweiler often, and where was top pass-rusher Brad Madison? His spin move wasn't working and he was quiet when Missouri needed him to step up. The defense was much better late when momentum turned, but Osweiler picked apart the defense for the better part of the night, in part because of the lack of pressure up front.
  • Awful luck for Missouri at running back. Henry Josey was great (9 carries for 94 yards), but we'll see how long De'Vion Moore is out. He injured his ankle on the opening drive and didn't return. Missouri had four great backs to begin fall camp. Now, with starter Kendial Lawrence sidelined with a broken fibula, Moore out and Marcus Murphy likely done for the season with shoulder surgery, Josey may be leaned on a whole lot more. Those guys combined for 1,557 yards and 19 TDs last year, but two games into the season, only one is standing. Josey accounted for 437 yards, five scores and 76 carries as a freshman in 2010.
  • Arizona's penalties stole the show, but Missouri was undisciplined, too. The Tigers had 11 for 114 yards, compared to Arizona State's 12 for 110 yards. Bad, bad, bad.
THE GOOD
  • What a difference a week makes for James Franklin. He's going to be sporadic all year, but he's going to improve fast, too. He had some awful throws, yes, but he had a lot more good ones, and kept Missouri alive with a handful of high-pressure passes in big positions. It's a loss, and he didn't make a play in OT when Mizzou needed it most, but you've got to feel good about the future behind Franklin. His mechanics looked better, he was more accurate, and did a decent job of running when he needed to. Very good signs.
  • Missouri needed more receivers to show up and help out T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew with a banged-up Jerrell Jackson in uniform, and they answered. Marcus Lucas had a huge catch in the fourth quarter to get the Tigers into scoring position, and finished with four catches for 87 yards. L'Damian Washington also had a big catch in traffic on a beautiful throw from Franklin to cut the lead to 30-23 in the fourth quarter. He finished with three catches for 39 yards. Six different receivers had at least two receptions, and Josey caught two for 51 yards. All good things for Missouri's offense.
  • The offensive line looked rough late in the game, but without left tackle Elvis Fisher and center Travis Ruth, the patchwork line had a pretty good game, especially against a good front seven. Vontaze Burfict wasn't running wild, which is a nice start. The offensive line didn't play so well in overtime, but Franklin had room to operate for most of the game and wasn't rushed too often. Not great, but good. Like Franklin, they'll get better as they move along without Fisher for the season and whenever Ruth returns from his sprained knee.

Big 12 Stock Watch: Week 2

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
1:15
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Let's take a little look around the markets across the Big 12 after one week of games.

Rising: All of Baylor's everything

With Friday night's win over No. 14 TCU, Baylor jumped from a team that didn't receive a single vote in either poll to begin the season, to No. 20 in the media poll and No. 26 in the coaches poll. Who says moving games to Friday nights is a bad idea? It paid off huge for Baylor. After the win, quarterback Robert Griffin III made the short trip up I-35 to Cowboys Stadium for an appearance on "College GameDay" Saturday morning. The Bears were also named the Fiesta Bowl's national team of the week. Is there a hotter team after Week 1? And how much of that fire would be doused if the Bears had played on Saturday afternoon?

Falling: Missouri's outlook

Maybe more than it should, but the Tigers were unimpressive offensively, even if the blame for it fell too heavily on first-time starter James Franklin's shoulders at quarterback. But the fact remains: Missouri's offense isn't very explosive, and won't be more explosive with the loss of its biggest home-run hitter, Kendial Lawrence. Lawrence raced for a 71-yard touchdown against Texas Tech last year. He broke his fibula on Saturday, and the Tigers will be without defensive end Jacquies Smith, linebacker Will Ebner, left tackle Elvis Fisher, center Travis Ruth and wide receiver Jerrell Jackson when they play Arizona State on Friday. All were starters.

Rising: Darrin Moore

I'm not going to use the "M-C" word about the Texas Tech senior who was a junior college transfer, but was Saturday night the beginning of something huge? I wouldn't rule it out. How many players in the country can rack up 12 catches, 221 yards and a touchdown against anyone? Yeah, it was against Texas State, but Justin Blackmon had eight catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State last year. At 6-foot-4, and 214 pounds, keep an eye on Moore.

Falling: Skepticism around Texas' return to prominence

Count me among those that is starting to become a believer. I don't think BYU will be as good as I thought they'd be this offseason, but I'm starting to come around on the Longhorns this year. I thought they'd have more success running the ball than most people thought, but the emergence of Jaxon Shipley is a huge deal for them, and gives Garrett Gilbert even more help. So, here's my pledge, Texas: Beat BYU, and you're in my top 25. Blow them out? In my top 20.

Big 12 players on and off the field this week

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
11:15
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Lots of personnel news across the Big 12 on Monday.

Missouri loses two more

Missouri is already playing without senior left tackle and captain Elvis Fisher, who will miss the season with a torn patellar tendon. So far this season, the Tigers are dealing with more injuries than any team in the Big 12.

Starting senior linebacker Will Ebner will miss Friday's game against Arizona State with a high ankle sprain, Gary Pinkel announced on Monday. He sprained the ankle in the first half of Saturday's win over Miami (OH) and did not return.

Defensive end Jacquies Smith will also miss Friday's game after dislocating his elbow in Saturday's game.

The Tigers already were playing without center Travis Ruth, and he won't make his return on Friday.

Marquise Goodwin in

Texas receiver Goodwin missed the spring and looked like he'd miss the first part of fall camp to compete on the track.

So, he decided to redshirt and return to the team in 2012. Until Monday, that is, when Goodwin announced he'd be returning to the team and be in practice on Tuesday.

"Words can't even explain how I excited I am right now to be getting back on the football field," Goodwin said in a release. "When I was overseas, I was missing football, the guys and being a part of the team so much. I thought about how they were getting ready for the season, working hard and pulling together, but it really hit me when I was in the airport on my way back from Seoul."

Goodwin caught 31 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore in 2010.

Tech starter out with 'deflated lung'

Defensive end Leon Mackey was one of the most hyped newcomers on Texas Tech's team, but he made just four tackles before being injured in Saturday's win over Texas State. On Monday, coach Tommy Tuberville announced the injury was a "deflated lung," suffered on a big hit.

The injury forced him to spend 24 hours in the hospital.

"It's up in the air how long he'll be out," Tuberville told reporters Monday. "Probably several weeks, maybe more."

Notes/thoughts from the Big 12 two-deeps

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
2:00
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A few teams across the Big 12 updated their depth charts in preparation for the season. Here's what you ought to know.

KANSAS STATE
  • Bill Snyder's depth chart for the team's game notes heading into next week's game against Eastern Kentucky? A work of art.
  • Snyder said he'll be releasing the depth chart tomorrow. More later on the Wildcats.
OKLAHOMA
  • Oklahoma didn't have any huge surprises, but the biggest news: Jamell Fleming has officially reclaimed his spot above Gabe Lynn at the boundary corner spot, despite missing all of spring practice after leaving the university.
  • Three true freshmen also broke the lineup. Kameel Jackson will back up Trey Franks at receiver, and recently added linebacker Kellen Jones is a co-backup with Jaydan Bird behind Tom Wort at middle linebacker. Nila Kasitati is a co-backup behind Tyler Evans at right guard.
  • Doubt the committee approach at running back? Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch are all co-starters at the position. Finch is listed last on that group, but we'll see how carries are distributed in Week 1 vs. Tulsa. Whaley is a walk-on who has had big days in the spring game the past two seasons.
  • Ronnell Lewis is listed as the starter at defensive end, but the university has yet to officially clarify his eligibility status. Kenny Stills is likely suspended for Saturday's game after an offseason arrest, but he's listed as the starter at receiver.
TEXAS TECH
  • Texas Tech has pair of hyped defensive linemen, and both cracked the two-deep. Leon Mackey, a juco transfer, will start at defensive end in Week 1 for the Red Raiders against Texas State. Meanwhile, former UNC signee and recently cleared true freshman Delvon Simmons will back up Kerry Hyder at defensive tackle in Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 scheme, fresh from TCU.
  • Glasgow will lean on a true freshman for one of his two linebacker spots. Blake Dees had a huge impact in the spring and solidified his starting spot during fall camp.
  • Receiver Marcus Kennard, a juco transfer, looks like he'll redshirt after not showing up on the two-deep, but Darrin Moore will grab the Z receiver spot for the Red Raiders.
OKLAHOMA STATE
  • The rumors have been officially proven correct at Oklahoma State: The Cowboys return all five starters on the offensive line, but juco transfer Michael Bowie has crashed the starting lineup at left tackle. He'll replace Nick Martinez, who'll back up Lane Taylor at right guard now. The Cowboys offensive line is the league's best, and clearly, Bowie's hyped arrival gives it a whole lot more than depth.
  • Justin Gilbert has officially usurped Devin Hedgepeth as the corner opposite Brodrick Brown. No surprise there. Gilbert's ceiling is sky high.
  • Caleb Lavey was the likely starter at the spot, but he'll officially start the year as Orie Lemon's replacement at middle linebacker, where he began spring camp.
MISSOURI
  • Justin Britt replaces Elvis Fisher at left tackle. The sophomore had been inside, but the team saw him moving outside eventually. He'll take that spot now with Fisher out for the season with a torn patellar tendon.
  • Hyped juco transfer Sheldon Richardson? Fifth on the depth chart no more. The recently cleared big man moved to No. 2 at defensive tackle behind Terrell Resonno.
  • Center Travis Ruth is out for the opener against Miami (OH). Jayson Palmgren fills his void.
  • Starting corner Kip Edwards is doubtful. Trey Hobson is listed as the starter.
  • Receiver Jerrell Jackson is also doubtful. Marcus Lucas will get the nod if Jackson can't go.
  • True freshman Corbin Berkstresser grabbed the No. 3 quarterback spot behind James Franklin and returning backup Jimmy Costello, who left the team and planned to join the Army, but re-joined after Tyler Gabbert's transfer.
IOWA STATE
  • Iowa State made it official on paper: Steele Jantz is the starting quarterback. His backfield? Crowded, but led by Shontrelle Johnson, as expected.
  • I'm not sure if it means he's playing for sure just yet, but Darius Reynolds is listed as the starter at one of the three receiver spots, despite suffering a broken toe earlier in fall camp.
  • A.J. Klein, meanwhile, has moved to middle linebacker next to weak side linebacker Jake Knott. Matt Tau'fo'ou started at middle linebacker spot last year, but after suffering a broken leg, he's backing up Klein in the middle. C.J. Morgan, a freshman, takes over at strong side. I haven't seen Morgan play, but at 207 pounds vs. Klein's 243, he'd presumably offer some more, much-needed speed at the position. Jacob Lattimer? Starting at defensive end, despite a March arrest and suspension.

Big 12 weekend scrimmage roundup

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
9:00
AM ET
Time to catch up with a few on-field happenings over the weekend...

Missouri quarterback competition heats up

For most of the spring, the only big mover in Missouri's competition has been Tyler Gabbert. He used the first few weeks of spring to move from the No. 3 quarterback to co-No.1 before taking over the No. 1 spot heading into Saturday's scrimmage.

James Franklin, however, looked like he made a move in Saturday's scrimmage. The competition is close enough that it's highly unlikely that Missouri will have an official starter at the end of spring, but Franklin and Gabbert appear to have made it a two-man race ahead of Ashton Glaser.

Here's how it shook out on Saturday:
  • Franklin: 19-30, 222 yards, TD, INT; 4 carries, 27 yards, TD
  • Gabbert: 14-26, 103 yards, INT

Franklin was the day's leading rusher.

Gabbert's interception was returned 32 yards for a score by new corner E.J. Gaines, and that's exactly the kind of play that can knock you down a peg in competitions like these. All mistakes are not created equal.

Gaines' pick, though, was indicative of a big day for the defense, which won the scrimmage by adding two more touchdowns on an interception and a fumble return and had four interceptions on the day. Defensive end Brad Madison had two of the team's six sacks.

Kony Ealy, who's earned plenty of buzz this spring as a likely contributor at defensive end alongside Madison and Jacquies Smith, had a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal.

With just one more week for Missouri until Saturday's spring game, it's clear the quarterback position is even more muddled, so don't expect a true starter to emerge until late in fall camp.

Missouri fans have reason to worry about the center spot, though. New starter Travis Ruth, replacing All-Big 12 performer Tim Barnes, had a nice day, but the backups had a difficult time snapping the ball. One of the defensive touchdowns, a 40-yard return by Marcus Malbrough, came off a bad snap.

Young running back steals show for Kansas

Could James Sims have company at the head of the pack among Kansas' running backs? It would seem so.

The practice was closed to fans and the media, but the early enrolling freshman from Kansas City scored four touchdowns, including one run that sounded like a sight to see.

From the team's report on the website:
Miller scored four touchdowns, including a run where he seemed to be surrounded by the defense, but spun out of it and ran to daylight.

But alas, coach Turner Gill brings the video goods via his Twitter account!

That's a heck of a run. I always love seeing quarterbacks hustle to make blocks, too, even if they don't get there.

"[Darrian] definitely had some good runs today and he showed that he has good vision and direction, and showed a good burst of speed," Gill said.

The Jayhawks are pretty deep at running back, with Sims and Darrien Miller being joined by DeShaun Sands, Brandon Bourbon, Rell Lewis and fellow freshmen Dreamius Smith and Anthony Pierson.

I'd still expect Sims to get the bulk of the carries, but Miller is clearly making a case early in his career that he'll be a factor as well.
Missouri's first official scrimmage of the spring was on Saturday, and who was the first quarterback to take snaps?

Redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert.

All three Missouri quarterbacks wore orange jerseys signifying they could each bit hit above the waist, so the race is close, but Gabbert made the most of his opportunity, turning in the best day among the three passers.

Here's how they finished:
Franklin's day featured a forgettable interception returned 40 yards by Zaviar Gooden (Told you folks to keep an eye on him last week) and Gabbert's biggest highlight was a 64-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington. Franklin's score was a toss across his body to Brandon Gerau in the back corner of the end zone for a 10-yard score.

Washington added a second touchdown and had 83 yards on four catches to lead all receivers.

Franklin obviously wasn't happy with his performance, but this was what it was: A spring scrimmage. By all accounts, Gabbert was the most impressive passer on Saturday, but there's a long way to go before Missouri's season opener in September.

Defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy, who has earned a good amount of buzz early in spring camp after redshirting in 2010, both had sacks in the scrimmage.

Defensive end Brad Madison added a pair of hurries.

The Tigers also left with at least one big concern. All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes is gone, and Travis Ruth and Justin Britt are competing to replace him.

But in Saturday's scrimmage, there were numerous botched snaps, including one on the opening drive that Gabbert was forced to dive on.

"It's very tough on the QBs," coach Gary Pinkel told reporters after the scrimmage. "You've got the QBs battling out there, and the snaps are all over the place. That's very difficult. Obviously, we've got to fix it."

Opening spring camp: Missouri

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
4:00
PM ET
Schedule: Practice opens today, and continues through the spring game on April 16. Practices between now and then are open to fans and media.

What’s new: Not much, really. There will be a quarterback derby, but we'll get to that in a bit. Missouri returns nine starters on offense and six on defense and didn't have a coaching change in the offseason. There will be new faces in the secondary, but Gary Pinkel has established a solid foundation for his program around his quarterback and there shouldn't be much concern about a down year in 2011 with a new passer.

On the mend: Linebacker Donovan Bonner missed all of 2010 with a knee injury, but he looked like a budding star before the injury. He's back this spring and should get a chance to get back to where he was in fall camp.

Key battle: There's plenty to see at quarterback. Pinkel says sophomore James Franklin will enter spring practice as the starter, but Ashton Glaser and Tyler Gabbert will push for the starting gig. This is definitely new territory for the Tigers, who haven't had any real uncertainty about their starting quarterback since Brad Smith took over as the starter in 2002. Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert were clear heir apparents, but a quarterback competition should add some new intrigue to the offseason in Columbia.

New faces: Receiver Wesley Leftwich will take part in camp, alongside offensive lineman Michael Boddie and defensive lineman Gerrand Johnson.

Breaking out: When defensive end and likely first-round pick Aldon Smith suffered a broken leg last year, backup defensive end Brad Madison flourished. He had three sacks against Texas A&M and finished with 7.5 sacks to lead the team and with Smith gone. Madison's road to becoming a household name across the conference could begin this spring.

Question marks: Secondary troubles have been a constant for Missouri's defenses over the past decade. Until last year, anyway. The secondary became a strength, but it did it with a pair of experienced, senior corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland. Now, promising young players E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards look ready to replace them, but will the excellence on the back line continue under third-year defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, or was last year an anomaly?

Big shoes to fill: All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes is gone, and Justin Britt and Travis Ruth will compete to take his place. Barnes was responsible for a lot of organization for the offense before the snap, not to mention his blocking and snapping talents. A weakness there would throw a kink into Missouri's offense. The Tigers need a solid talent to emerge, and that could happen this spring. The good news is the other four offensive linemen return.

Don’t forget about: The running backs. Missouri split carries between four backs last season, with none receiving more than 100 carries. Pinkel says he wants one to emerge and separate themselves, and if I'm guessing, I'd put my money on sophomore Henry Josey. He's the shiftiest of the four backs, and in Missouri's offense, a scat back can be a big asset. He may not get the goal-line carries (look for De'Vion Moore to take that duty), but he could get the Tigers down there.

All eyes on: Quarterback James Franklin. It sounds like he has a lead to start the spring, but the job isn't his yet. Missouri fans would like to see him (or someone, anyway) grab a firm hold on the job by the end of spring practice and impress them heading into fall camp. Uncertainty may not be the best option for Missouri's offense next fall, but if no one separates themselves, it might be a necessity.

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