ST. LOUIS -- Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel swung by the FOX Sports Midwest offices Monday afternoon while touring media outlets during the Tigers' bye week. He took the time to talk some football with writer Ben Frederickson.
BF: Your team is 2-0 to start the season. What have you seen from this group so far?
GP: There are always things needing fixed. There are things you are always trying to get better at. There are a lot of good things in place. One thing that's important, and I talked to my staff and players about this, is the best teams I've been a part of are the ones that keep getting better. They get better, and four or five weeks later they are a lot different team than at the start of the season. One prerequisite for that is you have to stay healthy. That's kind of where we're at. We have a lot of good things in place, but we have to continue to get better. If we do that, we could have a real good football team.
BF: Linebacker Andrew Wilson became the first Mizzou player to be suspended under the harsher targeting rule on Saturday. Have you had a chance to review the penalty?
GP: It wasn't malicious. I mean, he wasn't trying to take the guy out or anything. The first thing I'll say about the rule is college football and the NFL are trying to protect people. And they're being proactive on it, before something really, really serious happens. The bottom line is above the shoulder you can't have contact with an unprotected player. You can't do it. He can't protect himself. He got more with his arms above the shoulder, and the play was kind of falling toward him, but the bottom line is you have to hit him below the shoulder pads.
BF: There's a healthy buzz growing around running back Russell Hansbrough. Have you been impressed two games in?
GP: He's really talented. We are really fortunate to have three really high-caliber guys. Russell is very explosive. He's very physical. He's a little bit different of a runner, although he can start and stop really quick. He's only a sophomore. The other two guys (Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy) are more veteran players. But he is going to be an impact player at Mizzou and an impact player in the league, I think.
BF: Can you explain the team's decision to play backup quarterback Maty Mauk on the first series of the second quarter (in place of starter James Franklin)?
GP: First of all, we are not going to alternate quarterbacks. This goes way back to when I was at Washington, when we had Chris Chandler and Mark Brunell. ... They were playing good enough to play, but we didn't want to rotate them. So that's what we did. We did the same thing with Chase Daniel and Brad Smith. We did the same thing with Blaine Gabbert and Chase. ... It gives the backup experience. It gives him an opportunity to play. There's no debate on if we are trading a guy off. We will make the decision every Thursday on if we are going to do it.
BF: Is there any concern about how Mauk coming in might affect a team's momentum?
GP: The players know about it. We don't spring it on them all of a sudden and say, 'Hey, you're going in.' And James has been the guy going in before, with Gabbert, so they understand. Can you hurt momentum a little bit? Possibly. The ideal thing is the backup goes in and moves the ball well. ... We always tell them that we can -- if we decide because of the situation -- adjust accordingly. We have always done it like that. There were times when Chase didn't get in games Brad was playing. But we would like to do it as much as we can, because it is going to help your team down the road.
BF: Sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham looks more comfortable on the field. Do you agree?
GP: Michael Egnew (former Mizzou tight end). Remember him? His sophomore year no one remembered him because he was just average. Then all of a sudden the maturity level kicks on. We see that happen to so many players. All of a sudden they are different guys. We are seeing glimpses of him (Green-Beckham). He's working hard. He's a lot different. Much more mature. He gets it.
BF: Who is one young player people should watch out for this year?
GP: Harold Brantley, our defensive tackle. We moved him up to the starter position. Number 90. Movement like Sheldon Richardson. He's 6-foot-1 but moves like a linebacker. But he is only a redshirt freshman, a young, young guy. He's a guy who is really standing out right now.
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