Reserve QB has shot to shine in bowl practices
by Dave Matter (CDT)
December 11, 2011
“I was three minutes late,” Missouri’s freshman quarterback said.
That punctuality lapse aside, Berkstresser has otherwise been right on schedule and shown the kind of progress offensive coordinator David Yost expected. And now’s the time to capitalize. With two Columbia practices down and four left before the Tigers (7-5) leave for the Independence Bowl, Berkstresser took command of the offense yesterday, hoping to make the most of the extra work.
For the first time since Berkstresser began playing youth football, he was on the sidelines this season, taking a redshirt while James Franklin steered the offense. Berkstresser, officially listed as the No. 3 quarterback, split the second-team practice snaps with backup Jimmy Costello throughout the season.
“It was a little adjustment for me, but my game day was practice,” Berkstresser said. “That’s when I got my reps.”
And he used them well, Yost said.
“You can see, he’s a different guy now than he was in two-a-days,” Yost said. “When you call the plays, there’s no thought process. He knows what everyone’s doing on each play and he’s telling guys what to do. ‘Hey, you’re doing this, you’re doing that.’ Or he’ll come back to me and say, ‘He ran the wrong route, Coach.’ You can just see the maturation.”
Coming off back-to-back bowl losses to Navy (2009 Texas Bowl) and Iowa (2010 Insight Bowl), Gary Pinkel’s staff has shifted its philosophy on December practices and added more periods simulating North Carolina’s offense and defense in these early workouts.
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel made the suggestion after Navy and Iowa shredded the Tigers for 940 yards of offense the last two years. The offense can stand to benefit, too, with more time to prepare for North Carolina’s coverages against its spread formations.
“We wanted to just get a little bit more of a jump,” on the Tar Heels, Pinkel said.
That still leaves time for what the Tigers call A-B periods, when freshmen and walk-ons run Missouri’s offense and defense in scrimmage situations, rather than handle their scout-team assignments from the regular season. It was during A-B drills two years ago when MU realized Michael Egnew could become a weapon in the passing game. Egnew was a backup outside receiver that season, but during bowl practices he moved to tight end. The next fall, he caught 90 passes, his first of back-to-back first-team All-Big 12 seasons.
“All of a sudden,” Yost said, “the light went on and we were sitting there at the end of A-B practices saying, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ It catapulted right into spring ball and right into an All-American season.”
With Franklin entrenched at quarterback, it might be a stretch for Berkstresser to make the same leap next season. For now, he’s aiming for the No. 2 job. The competition figures to include Ashton Glaser, the current No. 4 option, and incoming freshman Maty Mauk.
“I want it really bad,” Berkstresser said of the backup job. “That No. 2 spot is really important to me. Whoever’s here to compete for that, we’ll compete.”
PACKED HOUSE: Missouri hosted 20 recruits on official visits this weekend, including 11 who had already pledged a verbal commitment to join MU’s 2012 signing class. Ka’Ra Stewart made it an even dozen. The defensive back from O’Fallon, Ill., High School committed during his visit, his high school team’s Twitter account (@OFallonFootball) posted last night. Stewart has also collected offers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue.
Among the weekend visitors was Lee’s Summit West offensive lineman Evan Boehm, who backed off an earlier pledge to Missouri and visited Auburn for last month’s Iron Bowl against Alabama.
The Tigers hosted three recruits who have been committed to programs currently undergoing head-coaching changes: Arlington, Texas, running back Russell Hansbrough (Arizona State); Whiteland, Ind., offensive lineman Jake Meador (Mississippi); and DeSoto, Texas, defensive lineman Michael Richardson (Texas A&M). Joining the throng at yesterday’s practice was South Bend, Ind., athlete David Perkins, who backed off a commitment to Notre Dame and also plans to visit Michigan State, Oregon, Ohio State and Tennessee.
ELVIS ENCORE?: Left tackle Elvis Fisher expects to hear from the NCAA in the coming weeks regarding his petition for a medical hardship waiver. Fisher missed the season after tearing his patellar tendon during preseason camp, and having already taken a redshirt season in 2007, he’ll need the NCAA to grant him a sixth year of eligibility to play next season.
Should the NCAA allow him to return, Fisher hasn’t decided if he’ll indeed play another season.
“We certainly want him to play,” Pinkel said. “In his heart, he’s got to feel that it’s the right thing for him. … We haven’t hardcore recruited him yet. That’s coming.”