180. That is how many days until the Mizzou Tiger football team takes the field at the Edward Jones Dome for their first game of the 2010 season against Illinois. The beginning of the journey to St. Louis started Tuesday afternoon as the Tigers had their first spring practice.
After an intense workout of about two and half hours with players in helmets, jerseys and shorts, Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel seemed very pleased with the first day of work. He started his post practice remarks talking about intensity, and also talking about time.
Time is something that Coach Pinkel talked about a great deal during the 2009 season, especially after the team lost several games in a row, and it became clear that they would not repeat as Big 12 North Champions for the third year in a row. At one point, he said the team was out of time as they needed to try and save what could have become a lost season.
The Tigers did have a good season, given all of the players they lost from the previous year. Mizzou would finish 8-5, but would end the season on a down note as they lost their last game of the year, a loss at the hands of Navy in the Texas Bowl.
With all of this in the past, Coach Pinkel has the focus squarely on what is coming this season. He talked about how starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert should be better this year, after one year as a starter under his belt. Pinkel says, if anything, the game should slow down for him.
The Tigers do come into the spring with six quarterbacks on the roster, but barring some huge setback, Blaine is expected to be the man under center. Pinkel says that Gabbert has to practice like he wants to be the best quarterback in the nation, and he says that is something Gabbert wants too.
Coach Pinkel then spent time talking about leadership on the team. Gone is the very vocal Sean Weatherspoon, who Pinkel says always made practice interesting. But Pinkel knows that there are leaders on this team, if maybe more on the quiet side. He also says that the leadership on this team will probably come from the seniors, but also from some of the underclassmen.
The final comments of the day were about the goals for the team this season. Coach Pinkel says that they never change. Their first is to win the Big 12 North, and get to the Big 12 Championship game, which could put them into the running for a BCS game. He says, even though they did not win the north last year, the goals were always the same, and they never change, win or lose.
The Tigers will be back on the practice field tomorrow afternoon. They will have two scrimmages before their annual Black and Gold game on April 17th.