A look at the top performers from Missouri’s spring football game

Downing, Brandon and McCann were among the players who stood out on Saturday.
Junior defensive lineman Rashad Brandon pushes to stop the run play during the Spring Black and Gold Game

Missouri football gave its fans a glimpse of what to expect this fall at the annual Black and Gold Spring Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Tigers’ offense defeated the defense 24-0.

Here are some players who stood out from the intrasquad scrimmage:

Dawson Downing

Dawson Downing, a redshirt freshman running back, earned the nickname “Ghost” from his teammates after a productive spring camp.

Offensive guard Kevin Pendleton said Downing showed why when he made safety Anthony Sherrils whiff on a tackle.

“You think he is there for one second, then he is gone,” Pendleton said.

The defense made that mistake on multiple occasions during the spring game with starting running backs Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett held out for precautionary reasons. Downing rushed for a 31-yard scamper on the first drive against the first-team defense. He followed up with a two-yard touchdown, the first touchdown of the game.

Downing finished with nine rushing attempts for 57 yards.

When running backs coach Cornell Ford told Downing before the game that he would take the field with the first-team offense, Downing said, he immediately had butterflies.

“I know some of the other guys have been through this a lot of times, and it probably didn’t mean a whole lot, honestly, but I was super excited for my chance to play in front of a real crowd,” Downing said.

Pendleton said Downing, a walk-on from Mission, Kansas, deserved the success because of his willingness to do whatever coaches asked of him in spring camp.

“He is a great dude, and I love see him getting these opportunities and making the most out of them,” Pendleton said.

Rashad Brandon

The offense dominated early in the game, scoring on the first two drives, but defensive tackle Rashad Brandon halted those efforts.

Brandon, a junior college transfer, stuffed consecutive running plays on the third drive, giving the defense its first stop of the game.

It’s nothing new for Brandon. He dominated offensive linemen in practice during his first spring with the Tigers. Pendleton said he is glad Brandon plays for Missouri, not its opponents.

“He is a tough dude,” Pendleton said. “He is going to give some guys some fits.”

Brandon’s efforts have been much-needed for a depleted defensive line. Defensive tackles Terry Beckner Jr. and Markell Utsey have been limited all spring because of ACL injuries from this past fall. In addition to the shortage of defensive tackles, defensive end Marcell Frazier broke his right arm a week ago in practice.

Tucker McCann

It turns out kicker Tucker McCann can kick.

After a 2016 season in which he struggled to kick extra points, McCann showed he has done his best to leave last year behind on Saturday. McCann made three of three extra points in addition to a 46-yard field goal in the spring game.

McCann said his mechanics have not changed. He has just tried to forget about 2016.

“You can’t think about the bad times, not even the good times,” McCann said. “You just have to move on.”

Emanuel Hall

Emanuel Hall distinguished himself on Saturday among a crowded group of wide receivers.

Hall caught three passes against the Missouri defense, two of which went for touchdowns. Both touchdowns came via deep passes from backup quarterback Jack Lowary.

Hall said the deep ball is his go-to route.

“I am just a fast guy,” Hall said. “I like beating people deep. It is hard to run with me, in my opinion.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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