Egnew eager for future

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | 1:39 a.m. CDT; updated 2:44 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 15, 2009
True freshman tight end Michael Egnew learned Monday he is likely to take a reserve role this season behind senior tight end Chase Coffman.

COLUMBIA — It began with an innocent announcement after practice, the slightest ray of possibility, and suddenly true freshman tight end Michael Egnew had renewed resolve to make a defining impression.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Plainview, Texas, native was one of eight true freshmen Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel pinpointed Monday as a possibility to bypass a redshirt season and experience playing time behind senior first-team All-Big 12 offensive selection Chase Coffman and junior Jon Gissinger. Egnew’s transition from standout high school wide receiver to potential contributor as a reserve tight end represents a movement with the Tigers’ future in mind.
“All it says to me is that we’re going to have a good team next year and the year after,” Egnew said. “We’ve got a lot of talent now, so next year all these freshmen will have more experience.”
If Pinkel’s vision goes according to plan, they should. Pinkel said Egnew and fellow tight end Andrew Jones, wide receivers Jerrell Jackson and Gahn McGaffie, defensive end Jacquies Smith, linebacker Will Ebner, offensive lineman Dan Hoch and walk-on long snapper Beau Brinkley are expected to take the field. All were part of MU’s 23-man recruiting class that, a popular recruiting ratings service, ranked the nation’s 26th-best, the highest during Pinkel’s seven-year tenure.
Egnew offers unique athleticism. At Plainview High School, he participated in basketball and track and field, winning the Texas Class 4A long jump state title with a leap of 23 feet, 9 inches in May. His career-best jump is 24-4 and his top triple jump was measured at 43 feet.
“Egnew is interesting,” Pinkel said. “He was almost a 25-foot long jumper in high school. For a guy that size, are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe that.”
This fall, Egnew wants to make Missouri fans believe. Last year as a wide receiver and team captain, he caught 34 passes for 587 yards, including five touchdowns. He didn’t play varsity ball until his junior year. He chose MU over offers from Purdue, TCU and New Mexico, among others.
He anticipates the transition from wide receiver to tight end to be a seamless one. He sees route cuts and vision skills transferring between the two positions. He is still becoming acquainted with the college game’s speed; in addition, lining up in the three-point stance is an adjustment, he said, but nothing with which he can’t become comfortable over time.
“He’s really athletic,” Coffman said of Egnew. “He’s getting the plays down, and he’s learning a lot. He still has a little ways to go. That’s what the coaches and other guys are here for.
“The biggest part is the step up to the next level. Everyone is a lot bigger and faster and more physical. He’s doing a good job. Like I said, there’s always going to be room for improvement. He’s going to be pretty good.”
He might be, but for now, his potential remains untamed. With repetition, his confidence swells. With experience, the boundaries of his ability mature.
“I’m just going to have to work harder,” Egnew said.
ALEXANDER PARTICIPATES: Junior wide receiver Danario Alexander’s return to the practice field was a welcome sign for Pinkel. Alexander tore his right ACL during the Big 12 championship game and is recovering from a knee surgery that took place in June. Alexander said he arrived at Faurot Field not expecting to practice, but he felt nimble enough to inform team trainer Rex Sharp that he could run routes short of full speed.
“Today, it felt good,” Alexander said. “It was pretty much a confidence booster.
“As I get better, that’s how it goes. I’ll run more routes.”
Pinkel said he hopes to have Alexander return in time for the Oct. 4 conference opener at Nebraska but also hinted at the possibility of an earlier recovery.
“It was fun to see him run out there,” Pinkel said. “That’s all up to Rex. Rex is just letting him do a little more work every time he goes. He’s doing fine.”
COFFMAN’S STITCHES REMOVED: Following practice, Coffman had stitches removed from his right pinky finger. Earlier this month, Coffman told reporters he broke the finger when he collided into defenders on a crossing pattern. Coffman, who became hindered by bone spurs in his right ankle last season, ran routes in a red jersey but did not catch passes.
“Right now, I’m just trying to get my motion back,” he said.
“I think they’re going to let me start catching the ball.”
FROSH HOPEFUL: Missouri officials are still awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse about the prospects of two freshmen who have yet to join the team, Kansas City-Rockhurst tailback Drew Temple and Fenton-Rockwood Summit wide receiver Rolandis Woodland. On Tuesday, MU confirmed that Kansas City-Raytown defensive end Aldon Smith has been ruled eligible.
“We think we have real good cases with all three,” Pinkel said. “I’m confident.”
BRIDGES STILL IN RED: First-team cornerback Castine Bridges remained in red jersey as a precautionary measure to shield an inflamed left knee. He didn’t participate in a majority of drills.
NFL SCOUTS PRESENT: Present to watch practice included representatives from the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns.

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