COLUMBIA — Michael Egnew hasn’t really gone anywhere. He is still wearing No. 82 and lined up in his usual spot on the field.
But, in another way, Egnew has disappeared.
Entering the season, Egnew was touted as one of the Missouri football players whose performance could be counted on. Considering his status as an All-American and All-Big 12 performer last season and his appearance as the only tight end on the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, it was expected that Egnew would play a huge role in the passing game.
That just hasn’t been the case.
Through four games, Egnew has only eight catches for 97 yards and one touchdown.
Saturday at Oklahoma, Egnew was nearly invisible. He caught only two passes for 40 yards, with both receptions coming in the second half, after Missouri had already fallen behind the Sooners for good.
Last season, Egnew was a force for Missouri. He ranked second on the team with 90 receptions — just two shy of team leader T.J. Moe — and was, statistically, one of the best receiving tight ends in the country. He averaged 58.6 receiving yards per game in 2010. This season he’s averaging just 24.2 yards per game.
The dip in production hasn’t been because of drops or bad plays on the part of the senior tight end. James Franklin simply hasn’t targeted him as much as Blaine Gabbert did.
Franklin has shown that he likes to spread the ball around. Only two players on the team have more catches than Egnew: Moe (23) and Wes Kemp (13). Plenty of players have single-digit receptions, and only one other pass has gone to a tight end not named Michael Egnew this season.
Coach Gary Pinkel said before the season started that it would be hard for his tight end to repeat the season he had in 2010.
"I think it's always difficult to say it's easy to match that type of year," Pinkel said on Aug. 29. "It requires an athlete to really push himself with the Michael Jordan 'I've never played my best game' attitude. That's why certain people have to drive themselves, and we have to do a good job coaching them, pushing him beyond where even he thinks he can get to."
It isn’t surprising to see an athlete’s statistics take a slight dive after such a big season like the one Egnew had last year. What is surprising is the lack of opportunities Egnew is getting.
Pinkel mentioned after the team’s 38-28 loss to Oklahoma that Egnew needs to be targeted more often than he was against the Sooners and more often than he has been so far this year.
"We’ve got to reevaluate that a little bit," Pinkel said. "I agree with that. We talked about that a little bit at halftime. … We need to get him back more involved in the offense. There's no question about that."