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August 23, 2007

Scrimmage: Tiger starters take it easy

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To say that Missouri's final fall scrimmage did not bear much resemblance to the team that will take the field for the season opener in nine days would be far beyond an understatement.

Adam Spieker, Tyler Luellen, Tony Temple, Will Franklin, Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker did not see the field for a single offensive snap. Chase Daniel did not attempt a pass.

"We decided that the players that we know are ready, instead of playing 15 or 20 plays that didn't matter, there's a lot of other players that need a lot of reps," said Gary Pinkel. "We went actually player by player and said, how many reps is this player going to get?"

On the defensive side, Brock Christopher, Ziggy Hood and Lorenzo Williams were completely held out of action, except for special teams duty.

"This is sweat. I had to do field goal block," Williams said. "It was hot out here. My feet are killing me."

"Hey, man, we played about ninety snaps today on the punt team," Rucker said. "Three and out all day."

In all honesty, with the starting group mostly on the sidelines, no individual performances jumped out, particularly on offense. The Tiger offense did not score a touchdown during the scrimmage.

But before Tiger fans panic, these were not the players you will see on September 1st in St. Louis. And that alone may be a reason for confidence. The coaches felt comfortable enough with the first string to rest half of their starters.

"I think so," Rucker responded when asked if that could be seen as a sign of confidence. "This is a scrimmage where we tend to back off, but it's about establishing depth as well."

The strategy may also have had something to do with keeping the team relatively healthy. Only Hardy Ricks, Marcus Woods and Michael Keck were held out for health reasons and the Tigers are still hopeful Ricks and Woods could play against the Illini.

The Tigers are off on Friday before starting game preparations for Illinois on Saturday. Some of the Tigers, though have already begun taking a peek at the Fighting Illini.

"We started the middle of this week," Franklin said. "We like what we see."

After 20 practices in the last 19 days, the Tigers close up camp beginning with Saturday's practice. Thursday provided the last look, albeit a very abbreviated one, at the team that will open the season as the Big 12 North favorites next weekend.

"I'm taking it as a day off," Williams said. "But I'm definitely excited about September 1st to show the world what we got."

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