As early as SEC Media Days last July, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel let it be known that he would ease up on the amount of hitting in his team’s fall camp. The Tigers’ 2012 season had been scuppered early on by numerous injuries. Mizzou’s hot-seat-bound coach didn’t want a repeat performance in 2013.
But on August 1st, we pointed out that Pinkel previous successes at Missouri — the man won 30 games between 2006 and 2008 — had not been undercut by breaks, sprains and tears during rough-and-tumble preseason practices. We also made note that previous SEC squads had tried to avoid injuries by cutting down on practice hitting… only to wind up with less than physical teams once the actual games began. Georgia’s disappointing 2010 was the last, best example of this.
On October 23rd, it looks as though our fears were unfounded. If anything, Mizzou’s 2013 team looks more physical than its 2012 incarnation.
Currently, the Tigers rank third in the SEC in rush defense. They are allowing just 116.5 yards per game and a miniscule 3.61 yards-per-carry average. That last number is second only to Alabama on the SEC statistical charts.
On the other side of the ball, Missouri is second in rushing yards per game (234.4) and third in yards per rush (5.72).
And do you know who leads the SEC in sacks? Uh-huh. Missouri has 23 through seven games for an average of 3.29 per contest. Nine of those sacks belong to defensive end Michael Sam.
Pinkel’s 2013 squad appears to be the exception to the rule that states you have to be tough in August to be tough in the fall. We’ll have to remember that the next time a coach decides to take it easy on the contact front in preseason camp. Clearly — at least on this occasion — some SEC teams really can benefit from putting on the bubble wrap.