Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is back on some familiar turf this afternoon. His Tigers are playing some comfortable football as well, leading Toledo, his former coaching home, 28-7 at the half on the road in MAC territory.
Missouri opened the scoring when Maty Mauk completed a short pass to Darius White for a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter. A big play would net Toledo its first score when Kareem Hunt broke off a 38-yard touchdown run roughly a minute and a half later. Missouri regained the lead later in the first quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run by Russell Hansbrough for a 14-7 lead. Missouri has been in control since that point though and has been pulling away from the Rockets.
Mauk has passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns and appears to be finding a groove.
Toledo’s Nate Jeppesen was carted off the field after going down with an injury on kickoff duty.
The Missouri Tigers’ war of attrition at wide receiver continues.
Sophomore Levi Copelin has been suspended for the 2014 campaign due to taking a banned substance.
“The reason I am suspended is that I recently bought an over-the-counter nutritional supplement from a local store, and used it as part of my workout routine,” Copelin said in a statement released by the schoool. “Unfortunately, I used it without clearing it with my strength coaches or trainers. This supplement is legal and available to the public, but it isn’t approved by the NCAA, and as a result of using it, I failed an NCAA drug test. This was a stupid mistake on my part, and I’m very sorry that I put myself and my team in this situation. This is a hard lesson to learn, as I never had the wrong intentions. I also understand there aren’t any shortcuts to success. There’s nothing I can do except dedicate myself to representing me, my family, my team, and Mizzou the right way going forward. I’m very grateful to my coaches and my teammates for giving me a chance to overcome this.”
Last season, the Tigers had one of the most explosive wide receiver corps in college football. L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas were lost to the NFL, and budding superstar Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team in April.
The team will now rely heavily on seniors Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. Copelin was projected to be the team’s fourth starter at wide receiver in its spread system. Instead, Copelin’s absence will provide an opportunity for a pair of true freshmen, Nate Brown and DeSean Blair, to make an early impact for the Tigers. The coaching staff could also turn to tight end Sean Culkin to provide a big presence — all 6-6 and 245 pounds of him — in the slot.
“This is a very unfortunate situation, but one that Levi created for himself,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said in the statement. “He’s paying the price for this mistake, and I commend him for owning up to it and taking responsibility. Our strength coaches and trainers rely on our players to be careful of what they do on their own, and to always get approval from them first. We’re disappointed that Levi didn’t follow this guideline, but we will support him during this time, and have high expectations that he will handle all of his responsibilities in the classroom, in the community and on the field in a first-class manner.”
The shock of Dorial Green-Beckham’s dismissal from the team probably hasn’t completely worn off at Mizzou just yet, even if quarterback Maty Mauk insisted “it’s behind us and we can’t do anything about it.” (via ESPN.com)
Mizzou’s spring game on Saturday, then, serves as an early look at who Mauk and the Tigers turn to in the absence of the team’s best returning receiver. It doesn’t help that Mizzou lost the 167 combined catches L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas had in last season’s run to the SEC Championship, either.
The good news is that Mizzou’s receivers still have good size and athleticism. Mauk, in the ESPN story, raved about 6-foot-3 Texas transfer Darius White, who only has 13 career catches to his name. Bud Sasser, who’s listed at 6-foot-2, caught 26 passes for Mizzou last year (and also threw a 40-yard touchdown to Washington at Georgia). Veteran Jimmie Hunt (22 catches in 2013) will also see an increased role in the Tigers’ offense.
Mauk lays out a few other players he’s been encouraged by in spring practice, and noted that Mizzou is being picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC East (not exactly an unfair assessment — in addition to the receivers, Mizzou lost QB James Franklin, RB Henry Josey, OL Justin Britt, OL Max Copeland, DE Michael Sam, LB Andrew Wilson and CB E.J. Gaines, among others).
But Mauk is somewhere between being diplomatic and confident in the guys around him with DGB no longer on the team. There’s still talent in Mizzou’s receiving unit; though we won’t find out if it’s good enough to compete in the SEC until the fall.