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Justin Smith returns to Missouri as assistant strength coach


Missouri coach Gary Pinkelsuggested at SEC Media Days last month that former Mizzou star defensive lineman Justin Smith, who retired from the NFL earlier this year, might return to the school in some capacity. That return was confirmed on Thursday, as Smith has taken a role as an assistant in the weight room.

The school posted a photo of Smith at Missouri's first practice of the preseason, noting that he'll be working under strength coach Pat Ivey.

Missouri's defensive line has built a strong reputation, and Smith is one reason for it. In the last two years, the Tigers have placed four defensive ends in the NFL draft: Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Keeping top-rated defensive linemen in the Missouri pipeline isn't easy, but having a former San Francisco 49ers star around the weight room will definitely aid Pinkel in his recruiting efforts.

Here are five other things we learned from fall camps around the country Thursday:

2. Russell return. It looks like a strong Notre Dame defense could get even stronger thanks to the return of cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who hasn't played since 2013 due to a suspension for academic misconduct. Russell will be on the practice field when ND opens camp Friday, and coach Brian Kelly expressed confidence that Russell will receive clearance from the NCAA to play. Meanwhile, defensive end Ishaq Williams' case is a little murkier.

3. Taking it easy. Count on Rich Rodriguez to always make things interesting. At Arizona's fall camp, players who passed conditioning testing during the summer were permitted to watch teammates take the conditioning tests under a tent, complete with misting fans and chairs.

4. Texas two-step. Fall camp won't settle the quarterback competition at Texas between Tyrone SwoopesandJerrod Heard, at least not in any meaningful way. That was made clear by Longhorns coach Charlie Strong on Thursday, who said both will play in the school's opening game against Notre Dame on Sept. 5. One might play a lot more than the other, but this isn't the kind of declaration a coach makes as preseason practice begins unless he wants to see some game action before settling on a starter.

5. Thin in the backfield. Alabama freshman running back Bo Scarbrough, who is on the mend from a torn ACL suffered in the spring, doesn't need to rush back, anyway. UA coach Nick Saban said Scarbrough has been suspended for the first four games of the season. Scarbrough opened fall camp practicing on a limited basis, but won't be eligible to play until the Crimson Tide's first key road game at Georgia on Oct. 3. It normally wouldn't be so significant, but Alabama's depth at running back after Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake has become perilously thin.

6. Quotable: "If you can't throw a completion against air, you're not going to be able to do it with a bunch of people out there," new Florida coach Jim McElwain, on how the Gators looked throwing the ball on the first day of practice Thursday.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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