Tight end Jones follows example of Missouri football predecessor

Thursday, September 17, 2009 | 3:06 p.m. CDT; updated 6:56 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 17, 2009
Both quarterback Blaine Gabbert (left) and Andrew Jones (right) have stepped forward this season.

COLUMBIA – Sophomore tight end Andrew Jones said specific moments aren't what he recalls most from his short time learning the game from former MU tight end Chase Coffman.

What Jones seeks to replicate are Coffman's  habits as an athlete and a person.

That's probably a pretty good plan. Coffman completed his memorable Missouri career last year, finishing with the most receptions for a tight end at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Now, he plays for the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL. Jones, a regular starter for the first time this year, said Coffman also set a great example of how to be a successful student-athlete.

"He's a real classy guy. He just knows how to carry himself," Jones said. "He was raised right, he knows how to act right. No matter the situation he's nice to everybody on campus and away from the game. If you just met him, you'd think he's a real nice guy. He's just someone that you'd want your kid to act like.

"Chase has helped me, shown me how to carry myself and stuff, and deal with preparing for the game."

Several teammates who have worked closely with Jones said he has developed his own good habits to accelerate his ability to contribute.

"When I think about Andrew, I think about a very tough guy," senior wide receiver Danario Alexander said. "He's from a small town or whatever, he likes fishing and stuff like that. But he's a very tough guy, always wanting to do everything right."

Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert likes Jones' consistency.

"Andrew's a solid tight end," Gabbert said. "He never drops any balls, and he's always in the right place at the right time."

Coffman is most famous for his pass-catching ability as a Tiger, more than once making receptions in the back of the end zone or along the sideline that appeared out of his reach. But late in a close game against Bowling Green last week, when Missouri wanted to run the ball, players say Jones' blocking ability was his best asset.

"It just helps the offense so much because we've got D-Wash (running back Derrick Washington) running the ball," senior wide receiver Jared Perry said. "Then we line up Andrew Jones on the line as a tight end, so he gets good blocks sealing the end. That just adds on to our offense."

Alexander said it's necessary to get comfortable using both skills.

"All of our receivers have to block, and catch passes obviously, too," he said. "I mean, we want to be more physical to open up holes for D-Wash or whatever to run the ball. Everybody gotta step up and do their role."

Coach Gary Pinkel has noticed Jones' potential as both a receiver and blocker.

"Don't tell him I said this, but I never see him drop the ball," Pinkel said. "He always makes the catch. Those guys are real valuable in our offense because if you can get open and you get in a spot and catch the football … that's hugely important. We also (value him) from a blocking standpoint because he's a bigger athlete. We know what he can do."

Coffman isn't the only Missouri product playing the position at the highest level. Martin Rucker, who played at Missouri from 2004-2007, plays for the Cleveland Browns. Jones said he likes how Missouri has developed tight ends in recent years.

"I've had a different role than the past tight ends," he acknowledged. "I think I still would've came here even if it wasn't for the whole 'throwing to the tight end' stuff. I mean, it's so close to home. It made me feel good. I knew I was coming to a place that tight end is a centerpiece of the offense. Coach Pinkel, he played tight end when he was in college. Tight end's a big deal in this offense."

Jones said being the starter creates a different routine but likes knowing he will be called on each week.

"I've been waiting for it," he said. "I've been working hard to get here. It's just a lot different from last year, because last year at practice I would just go with the twos only, and this year I'm going with the ones only. There's no surprise or anything. Last year it was kind of a surprise when Chase got hurt and I started a couple games. This year there's no surprises. I don't have to wait for anything weird like that to happen."

Perry said he's confident Jones will succeed if he maintains the same attitude.

"He practices so hard," Perry said. "I know he's got some big shoes to fill because Martin Rucker was great, Chase Coffman was great. He (Jones) just keeps playing his game, everything will work out for him."

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