Victor Sesay isn’t a typical tight end. Everything about him screams wide receiver. He runs quickly, jumps high and catches almost everything within reach.
Sesay will likely make his first start Saturday when No. 23 Missouri visits Kansas. Starting tight end J.D. McCoy sprained his right knee making an acrobatic catch on fourth-and-2 late in Missouri’s 41-40 overtime win against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.
Playing an integral role
MU coach Gary Pinkel won’t comment on injuries, but McCoy said he might not return until the week before the Tigers’ Oct. 11 game against Nebraska.
Pinkel has tried to work Sesay into the offense slowly, but Sesay’s role will expand against Kansas. Sesay scored his first touchdown in the Tigers’ 35-7 win against Ball State on Sept. 6. A week later, Sesay made three catches for 27 yards against Eastern Illinois. Sesay has seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Pinkel said the Tigers need Sesay to play well with McCoy out.
“Every week he is getting a little bit better and that’s encouraging,” Pinkel said. “We’re certainly going to need him to step up to the plate here and help us.”
Adding a fast new dimension
During two-a-days, Sesay said he gave the Tigers a new dimension. He is 6-feet-6, 270 pounds and Pinkel estimates that Sesay runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.5 seconds.
Sesay said he sees what NFL stars Jeremy Shockey and Tony Gonzalez have done for the position and hopes to join them some day.
Sesay’s game is not complete, though. He readily says his blocking needs to improve.
“You have to get better every week,” Sesay said. “I’m going to work on blocking a little harder than any other week because this is my first time starting and I don’t want to mess up any assignments or mess up the flow of the team.”
Sesay’s imposing presence gives the Tigers a weapon they haven’t had in a long time. A year ago, Missouri tight ends combined for 19 catches, 182 yards and two touchdowns. The tight ends’ role in the offense expanded after the coaching staff made a concerted effort to involve them more in the passing game.
In four games, MU tight ends have combined for 18 catches, 174 yards and three touchdowns. McCoy leads the unit with eight catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers added a couple of twists to the offense in preseason practice with the intent to involve Sesay.
A five-receiver set, where Sesay lines up in the slot with two receivers to his right and two more receivers split wide to the left, is a new wrinkle in Missouri’s playbook.
Pinkel said a player such as Sesay gives the offense an option it hasn’t had at tight end.
“He has remarkable big-play potential,” Pinkel said.
Getting used to Division One
The adjustment to the Big 12 Conference has not been easy for Sesay. He transferred to Missouri from Ventura (Calif.) College after choosing Missouri over USC, Tennessee, Nebraska and Alabama.
Sesay caught 58 passes for 970 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons at Ventura. Sesay said he struggled with learning a new offense and blocking schemes.
Pinkel said it is hard for a player to go from junior college to a Division I school and essentially start over.
“He has had a tough haul,” Pinkel said. “It has not been easy because of how we do things and the intensity. He has worked really hard and he is starting to figure it out.”
Sesay said he has no time to worry about his problems because his team needs him more than ever.
“Right when J.D. got hurt, it struck me,” Sesay said. “You can’t dwell on things you had problems with in the past. It is time to step up and change whatever I was struggling with before. Now it’s time to do what everyone else is doing and keep this thing going.”