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August 6, 2009

Camp is Open

Nobody will cover fall camp like PowerMizzou.com. We will have analysis, reaction, photos and video from every single practice leading up to the season opener. To get your free trial membership going today, justclick right here.

The 2009 Missouri Tigers made their much-anticipated 2009 debut on Thursday afternoon. The Tigers had a two-hour workout in shorts and helmets as fall camp 2009 kicked off. PowerMizzou.com will cover every workout this fall from end zone to end zone. Here are our observations from day one:

*First, the players that were not in attendance. Chris Freeman is held up in the NCAA Eligibility Center. Gary Pinkel compared it to the Aldon Smith situation from a season ago. Freeman could be cleared at anytime, so it will be a day-to-day situation.

*Mark Hill (Achilles) and Adam Burton (ACL) were held out of practice. Neither player will be able to participate in fall camp. Both will rehab and, presumably, head for a redshirt season. Josh Tatum was the only other player held out of drills. Tatum is recovering from back surgery in late May. Trainer Rex Sharp said Tatum's prognosis was excellent to return to practice soon. Freshman wideout T.J. Moe had a red pullover on, but did participate in drills. Moe had surgery on a broken foot in February, but he told us after practice he was 100% and was ready to go full bore very soon. We will have more with Moe in the next few hours in the first of our Freshman Features.

*Speaking of freshmen, the first one I noticed when I walked out to the practice fields was Donovan Bonner. On signing day, Bruce Walker told me Bonner was "a sandwich away from being a linebacker." He must have stopped at Subway on his way to Columbia. He looks good. His big brother in camp is Sean Weatherspoon. It's too early to speculate which youngsters might play, but I've got my eye on No. 8.

*One freshman who could use a few sandwiches is LDamian Washington. He looks every bit of 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, but he could also be the third Haley. But I remember saying the same thing about Jared Perry as a freshman, and all he did was forego a redshirt and catch 37 passes as a true freshman. If Washington's frame can withstand some pounding, he's got prime red zone target written all over him. It will be interesting to see what happens with him.

*Noticeably absent from the injury report is senior wideout Danario Alexander. He went through all drills and looked good doing it. After practice, I asked him the last time he felt this good. "Probably before the start of my sophomore year," he said. You might remember that was the camp I reported almost daily that Alexander was the best player at practice.

*Another receiver really caught my eye. I was surprised, honestly, to see Wes Kemp listed as a starter instead of Jerrell Jackson. But Kemp was loud and looked like a leader. I'll be interested to watch that battle for the starting spot develop.

*We'll have a video feature showing you some of Blaine Gabbert in action later. As I've said before, the one thing that stands out is the arm. Alexander told me that Chase Patton had the best arm of any quarterback he's played with, but Gabbert "might have a couple of yards on him."

*Not a ton of special teams work, but the guys I saw taking reps as punt erturners were Carl Gettis, Perry and Jerrell Jackson.

*Just a few highlights from the 7-on-7 period:

Will Ebner jumped a route over the middle and nearly picked off Jimmy Costello.

Andrew Gachkar finished the job and got a pick. It appeared that one of the receivers ran a wrong route and Gabbert hit Gachkar right in the stomach.

Gilbert Moye turned some heads with both a fingertip catch and a real nice cutback run that turned no gain into about seven yards. Moye's development at running back will be interesting. Is he good enough to keep the redshirt on Kendial Lawrence?

Speaking of running backs, no particular play here, but I continue to be impressed with De'Vion Moore in practice, as I have been since last fall.

Zaviar Gooden nearly had a pick on Costello jumping a route and coming from about five yards back to bat the ball away from a receiver that appeared to be wide open. By now, you know Gooden was chosen to wear #25 in honor of Aaron O'Neal.

"We wanted to honor his number with a really good football player for as long as he wears it," Pinkel said. "We choose a linebacker and we try to choose one, obviously, that we think is potentially going to be a high-level player. Interestingly enough, they're very similar people. Very, very quality people. I know Zaviar will take pride in wearing that jersey and that's a tradition that will be carried on historically here at the University of Missouri."

Play of the Day: Gabbert laced a beautiful sideline pattern over a leaping Kevin Rutland to Jared Perry. Perry then sidestepped the safety and went down the sideline for what would have been about a 60-yard touchdown. It's throws like that that have a lot of people excited about Gabbert's potential.

Quote of the Day: "I came up with it. We came up with it as a staff. When you go from 11th to 180th-that's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it was that bad-you wonder why you went 10-4 from 12-2. I think we were 88th in the nation or something in turnover margin. That's not very good. It's an emphasis. We try to come up with different ways to get that out there, so that's what we're doing. There's more t-shirts to come. I bet you can't wait till tomorrow."

--Gary Pinkel on shirts the coaches wore that say "Lead the Nation" on the front and "Turnover Margin" on the back.

The Tigers return to practice at 7:15 on Friday morning and PowerMizzou.com will be there with full coverage throughout the day.

Nobody will cover fall camp like PowerMizzou.com. We will have analysis, reaction, photos and video from every single practice leading up to the season opener. To get your free trial membership going today, justclick right here.


PowerMizzou.com's fall camp coverage is sponsored by CJ's in Tiger Country, home of the BYFO (Burn Your Face Off). For the best wings around, check out CJ's at 7-4 E. Broadway in Columbia or call in an order at (573) 442-7777. Click on the graphic above for more information.



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