COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri football team resumed practice Tuesday after a two-day layoff from Saturday's scrimmage short 18 players.
Two more signs of the times.
NCAA rules this year mandate two off days per week, and only permit 25 practices during a 40-day period, which means the Tigers waited two days before picking back up after its second fall scrimmage.
Then there was the coronavirus update: according to head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri's program has four positive COVID-19 cases, and 14 others in isolation, either awaiting test results or because contact tracing placed them in close contact with the positive results.
Those 18 total players absent from practice are the most Missouri has had since resuming official activities. The program had 20-22 players isolated as a result of contact tracing from four positive tests in early June before practices started.
"It's not ideal," Drinkwitz said Tuesday on Zoom. "We anticipated this would be the case with students back on campus, and just kind of the way this thing is operating. I think our guys are still trying to do a really good job of practicing safe social distancing and trying to do the very best they can not to catch it or spread it."
Drinkwitz said no transmissions have been contact traced back to a Missouri athletics facility, but also acknowledged it's hard to tell exactly when and where transmission of a virus occurs. He also acknowledged, with players living together, one positive test means the rest usually have to quarantine as a precaution.
After Saturday's scrimmage, he said the offensive line group has been the hardest hit, both because of coronavirus and injuries, but there have been no hospitalizations, and other Southeastern Conference programs, like LSU and Tennessee, have had to call off scrimmages because of a position group or a large portion of the team contracting the virus.
The Tigers have also found some consistency on the right side of the line. Drinkwitz said Tuesday part of the line was pretty much set, with Rutgers transfer Mike Maietti slotted in at center, Case Cook at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle.
"It's just the left side has had a lot of different pieces with it, with Hyrin (White)'s injury, with Zeke (Powell) being in and out with some nagging injuries," Drinkwitz said. "Bobby Lawrence has taken quite a few reps at left tackle, and the left guard position, Xavier Delgado's really been the guy, but things have kept him from being in that position, so there's other guys that have had to step up. We're still trying to figure out who that group of five's gonna be."
White's injury is in his shoulder, and Drinkwitz said the team is still trying to determine how long it will keep him out.
Maietti came to Missouri as a graduate transfer, entering his name into the portal in January, before the Big Ten canceled fall sports, and committed April 17. With former center Trystan Colon-Castillo (Baltimore Ravens) moving to the next level, Maietti was expected to compete for the starting spot at center. He started 31 games at center for the Scarlet Knights across three seasons.
Maietti said the only way to get acclimated to the new offensive system is practice reps.
"I lean on my teammates a lot," he said Tuesday. "I can lean on those guys for anything that I really need help with adjusting to, and they've really done a good job with that."
So far for Maietti, a New Jersey native who is taking all of his classes online this semester, the biggest adjustment has been the most obvious one:
"Honestly, living in Missouri is the biggest change. Coming out here, everything, from top to bottom, is different now."
Running back Tyler Badie has never lacked confidence and has always been a charismatic guy with some swagger. He played immediately as a true freshman and made the All-Freshman team selected by the league's coaches, fitting in right away as a return man and change-of-pace back.
The portfolio diversified last year in his emergence as a receiving threat: he led the Tigers in receptions (partly the product of a weaker receiver group) with 32 catches for 356 yards and five scores.
He wants the rest of the league to take note as the Tigers install a new offense.
"It's not too much different. I just know what I'm capable of doing," Badie said. "I'm the most versatile running back in the SEC right now, so any way I can get the ball, I'll do it. Just show how dynamic I am, open space, between the tackles, receiving, running the ball, and that's just what I'm going to show on Saturday, so y'all be ready for that."
The Tigers open the season Sept. 26 against Alabama.
Missouri's offensive install has been a work in progress, but Drinkwitz gave positive signs about the process after Saturday's scrimmage, and Badie backed those words up Tuesday.
"It's just little stuff that you want to critique, just technical things," Badie said when asked how confident he was in the offensive install. "We've got pretty much everything in that we need to get in. Now it's just executing: under pressure, different situations. I just feel like we're gonna be great. It's going to be a sight to see on Saturday."