COLUMBIA — Michael Egnew and Andrew Jones are an odd couple.
Although the two players share a position, their physical attributes are anything but similar. So Missouri’s first- and second-string tight ends have learned to embrace their different body types and bring their unique strengths to the field.
As a pair, the two fill a wide range of needs that the Missouri coaching staff has at tight end. The first of which is height.
“Our tight ends, we like to have guys that are 6 foot 4 inches plus,” receivers coach Andy Hill said.
Both Egnew and Jones fit that bill. From there, though, the two players’ body types sharply diverge.
Egnew, at 6-foot-5, appears almost lanky. With a bend of his knees and a flex of his long legs, Egnew can spring into a vertical jump of up to 42 inches. And while he seems too long and lean to make an effective blocker for quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Egnew’s muscles are strung together into an optical illusion. In reality, he weighs 230 pounds and can bench press up to 320 pounds.
“He looks like he weighs 210 pounds,” Pinkel said. “He’s … quite an athlete.”
Jones is no more than an inch shorter than Egnew, but his thicker build makes him appear noticeably shorter and anchors him to the turf. This is not a bad thing at tight end and might even be more typical for players at the position. Jones weighs in at 245 pounds. Although this doesn’t seem remarkably different from Egnew’s 230, Jones, when lined up against an unknowing defenseman, would appear far more daunting.
It’s hardly surprising that Jones can bench press more than Egnew: 350 pounds is his maximum. Conversely, Egnew’s vertical jump makes Jones’, whose highest is about 31 inches, look like a hop. In a race, Egnew would win: his 40 yard dash clocks in at about 4.4 seconds, while Jones takes about 4.9 seconds to complete the race.
But considering that tight end is somewhat of a hybrid position, both Egnew and Jones have the blend of skills necessary to succeed.
“At the point of attack, they do a lot more blocking,” Hill said. “So they’ve got to be athletes all around but also tough enough to block people in the middle.”
The players also provide reliability at the position.
Pinkel said of Jones: “I’ve never seen him drop the football. He’s always made critical plays, critical situations.”
Jones brushed off the praise he receives for his ability to catch the ball, and he almost takes his magnet-like hands for granted.
“Catching the ball, it’s pretty easy anyways, but it comes to me,” Jones said.
Making the catch, however, depends a lot on being in the right place at the right time, and Egnew provides stability there.
“I can’t rely on speed to get open,” Jones said.
Egnew said that running routes is the part of playing tight end that comes most naturally to him. He acknowledged that being in the right place at the right time takes more than speed. It also takes years of experience.
For a tight end, strength and smarts must also complement speed. Not every play calls for the tight end to race into a receiving position, and Pinkel and Hill adjust which player goes in based on what they need.
“Michael’s a little faster,” Hill said. “A.J.’s (Jones) got more experience playing in the games, so he’s a little more crafty.”
Pinkel agreed that there are moments in every game where he needs one tight end more than the other.
“We’re very aware of sometimes, we might call a particular play if this guy's in, but if this guy’s in we might not, or we should get the other guy back in,” Pinkel said. “It can also work for a blocking situation, when you want the bigger athlete in there to block. So long as you’re not predictable, you can kind of use everybody the best way you can as far as your skills.”
Both Jones and Egnew know that neither possesses every talent a tight end could have, but they do recognize that they must each focus on what they’re best at while constantly working to improve.
“I need to make sure that whenever I get out there and have an opportunity, I need to use the best technique and use what I’ve been taught,” Jones said.
To sum up the position, Egnew used one word: power. Power to always be aware of what’s going on the field, and power to get where he needs to be to make a difference on the play. He said that he and Jones each add a different element to their power: Egnew has the speed and Jones has the strength.
It’s those things combined that makes Missouri’s tight ends a force on the field.