With summer over, Missouri has season-opening media day

Coach Gary Pinkel goes into the season with injury-tested offensive line.
Coach Gary Pinkel speaks to reporters Monday afternoon at the season's first media day in the Missouri Athletic Training Complex. The Tigers open the season Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana.

It all appeared so standard.

Coach Gary Pinkel, in black slacks and a black jacket, a black Nike dry-fit shirt underneath, stood behind a podium at Onofrio Auditorium inside the athletic complex to talk for nearly 17 minutes.

The offseason procedural shifted to regular season form, and Pinkel hosted his first Monday press conference as a Southeastern Conference headman. After the Tigers kick off the season Saturday, Monday afternoons will detail what happened the three days before and what will happen six days later.

But this Monday afternoon was first about the end of the summer, the end of the team’s 24-day August camp, and what had emerged from it. Junior running back Henry Josey, who was among the nation’s top rushers before Texas defenders obliterated his left knee Nov. 12, had his 2012 season shut down with an official announcement from Pinkel.

“I tell you what — in practice yesterday, it was kind of interesting,” Pinkel said. “It was Sunday evening, and offense and defense were practicing on both ends of the field … and all of a sudden I see this guy in a red jersey with his shoulder pads on and he is striding the full length of the field … and it was Henry, and he was running and running good, and he was running hard."

Pinkel lauded Josey's drive.

"He's a remarkable kid, and I'm so impressed, and I went over there and gave him a big hug and high five. He will be back one of these days …”

Southeastern Louisiana, the team that only has geography in common with MU’s new league and the one that will be in town for the season-opener, was not a chief topic. The question about the visiting Lions was whether or not players had already made them a shadow of week two, when Georgia would come to inaugurate Missouri’s SEC era.

"I have to responsibly as a head football coach look at everything, so to say that is not a concern is irresponsible on my behalf,” Pinkel said. “… The really good football teams do not prepare differently because they play a team that is better or worse than another team. If you do that you are not going to be very good, you are going to be very inconsistent, and you are going to have major problems as the season goes on, so that is my job, to make sure that does not happen.”

Junior cornerback E.J. Gaines gave a straightforward response later.

“If we go out there and play the right way, we all know we can go out there and take care of Southeastern Louisiana," he said.

Monday morning’s depth chart revealed senior offensive guard Jack Meiners, who’s nursing a strained knee, will be out for Saturday’s match. Meiners is the next casualty of a front line that was injury-stricken this summer. Though Pinkel said Meiners would make a quick return, senior starter Travis Ruth will be sidelined until at least November, Pinkel said.

Filling in will be Max Copeland, a 6-foot-3-inch, 290-pound junior who sports a slick blonde mane that goes down to his shoulders and boasts a personality teammates describe as feral. The walk-on was awarded a scholarship earlier in August.

“He’s told me he’s going to tone it down,” senior tackle Elvis Fisher said. “He told me, ‘I’m not going to listen to any heavy metal until a half-hour before we go out.’ I told him, ‘All right, that’s a good idea.’”

Fisher will take the field for a sixth year after sitting out last season due to injury, not lining up against a foe since Dec. 28, 2010. Evan Boehm, a true freshman, will start beside him at left guard.

“You’re going to be nervous," Fisher said. "You’re going to be nervous as heck. So you just got to go out there on the first play and hit somebody.”

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