Tigers will give new offense a test drive in annual scrimmage

Saturday, April 16, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- With a lot of the talk this spring about Missouri centering on the Tigers' new offense, the team and coach Gary Pinkel will unveil it to fans today at the yearly Black and Gold Game.

Words of advice for the Tiger faithful: Get to the scrimmage early.

With Missouri's No. 1 offense already shorthanded because of injuries, quarterback Brad Smith and Missouri's other starters won't play too much of the four-quarter, 48-minute scrimmage at Faurot Field.

The established players will play about a quarter and leave the rest of the time for the younger, less-experienced players. Because for most of Missouri's freshmen redshirted during the fall, this is their first game-day atmosphere in almost two seasons.

"You can tell when you see someone change into a game player," senior safety Jason Simpson said. "There are some people that don't practice great, but they can play great. It's kind of nice to see the transition because you don't always get to see it."

As the leader of the No. 1 defense, Simpson is among the group that will play little today.

The retooled offense features wider splits between linemen and often an empty backfield. Missouri, which scored just 32 touchdowns last year compared with 53 in 2003, also has worked on some option plays and ways to get Smith and an athletic group of skill players in space.

Pinkel said the offense has struggled picking up the offense, but he didn't expect immediate results.

"We put a lot of things in," he said. "We need a lot of work. We got most of the things in that we want to look at. Some of the stuff is the same, some of it isn't. We need significant improvement. I expect to see a huge difference in our offense coming back from two-a-days than we do now."

When the Tigers learn the offense, tailback Tony Temple may be the beneficiary. Other than periodic fumbling issues, Temple's speed and quickness has allowed him to find open areas this spring. He has scored three touchdowns in scrimmages the past two Saturdays. Still, he said he needs to continue to develop.

"To be honest, I have a lot to work on," he said. "I want to be a complete back, and it's just a lot of little things I know I need to work on."

Unfortunately, injuries to several key players provided the Tigers with another hurdle while trying to incorporate the offense. Starting wide receivers Sean Coffey, who caught 10 touchdowns last year, and William Franklin missed time this spring and won't play today.

In addition, potential starters Marcus Woods and Tyler Luellen, who missed the entire spring after shoulder surgery in the winter, also will sit out the scrimmage.

Van Alexander, a redshirt freshman linebacker from nearby Rock Bridge High, was having an excellent spring before he needed surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot April 7. He is the only defensive player out.

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