COLUMBIA — At 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 235 pounds, junior tight end Michael Egnew is confident that if a defender tries to square him up and tackle him at the waist, he can break lose.
It’s those pesky little defensive backs who come flying at his ankles that Egnew has a hard time avoiding.
This season Egnew is second on the team with 16 receptions, but seven of them have gone for 5 yards or less. He has been Missouri’s go-to target on the wide receiver screen play that former receiver Danario Alexander had a knack for turning into big gains a year ago.
Egnew hasn’t had the same success breaking tackles after the quick pass.
“He needs to break a few more tackles, we’re going to get on him about that a little bit,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after the Tigers’ victory Saturday over McNeese State. “He’s a big athlete, he’s got great speed, great athleticism.”
Egnew says he has been trying to use his strength to break tackles.
“I try to use a stiff arm pretty often, but a lot of guys go for my ankles,” Egnew said. “They see a taller guy coming at them, so they try and go for the ankles. I can always get better at it. I’m always disappointed when one person takes me down.”
Missouri’s last tight end, Chase Coffman, who is also 6-6, developed his own way of getting past defenders who tried to take out his legs.
“Coffman invented the hurdle,” Pinkel said. “I’m not going to propose he works on that technique, but what we’re trying to get him to do is think bigger. If he gets out in the open, he can outrun a lot of people. He’ll get his share of big plays.”
While Pinkel might not want to see another one of his players leaping over defenders, Egnew guaranteed he would be hurdling at some point this season, and his teammates know he can pull it off.
“Michael Egnew has the team record in the broad jump,” junior wide receiver Jerrell Jackson said. “He could probably jump over three guys at once. He’s going to bring it out. I’m going to make sure he brings it out.”
Jackson, who uses his quickness and agility to break tackles, said Egnew just needs to change his mindset so he can start making bigger plays.
“Right now his mindset is just to be physical,” Jackson said. “If he changes his mindset to do more moves, he could do them. It’s all in the feet. You got to have nice feet to make guys miss.”
Those feet take some time to develop, but a private lesson from Jackson should speed up the process.
“He’s just getting used to it,” Jackson said. “When we get into conference play, I think he’s going to be a really good football player. I’m going to show him a few ju-ju’s (jukes). That’s what we call them.”