Chase Patton and Van Alexander garnered most of the headlines when they joined the Missouri Tigers after starring at Rock Bridge. However, Scott Russell, another Bruins graduate, might have the best chance to see playing time his freshman season.
Russell, a freshman walk-on, is part of a four-man competition to replace another former Rock Bridge walk-on kicker, Mike Matheny.
Last season, Matheny set a Missouri record with 44 extra points. He also made 10-of-14 field goal attempts.
With Matheny out of eligibility, the Tigers have a wide-open competition to find his replacement, with Russell competing against sophomore Alex Pettersen, redshirt freshman Adam Crossett and junior college transfer Joe Tantarelli.
Russell said the competition would provide the Tigers with a better kicker.
“Competition is great; it is always good to go out next to somebody who will push you to do better,” Russell said. “We are all fighting on our own, to win the job, but we need the competition to get better and to motivate you.”
Pettersen entered fall camp as the No. 1 kicker and has made four extra points in two games during his Missouri career. During fall workouts, there has been no clear leader.
Two years ago as a freshman, Pettersen entered the season in the top spot, but Matheny surpassed him. Russell, who made 52 extra points and three field goals last season at Rock Bridge, is hoping to fill Matheny’s kicking shoe.
“I saw there was an opportunity, the kicking job was wide open and I thought I’d come in and compete and do the best job I can,” Russell said.
Russell also drew interest from Illinois, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU as a possible walk-on. He also received a scholarship offer from Southwest Missouri State. In the end, he wanted to play Division I football and he wanted to be a Tiger.
“I thought about going to SMS,” Russell said. “But I just decided that if I didn’t play at the Division I level, I’d regret it later if I could’ve won the job.”
At Rock Bridge, Russell also started at wide receiver and cornerback. Russell said he preferred playing in all phases of the game, but at Missouri he will serve only as a kicker and is still adjusting to the amount of work it takes.
“It affects you, it’s a lot more work,” he said. “I think you kind of don’t notice that you’re working out all day long and your legs get tired and you have to go kick.”
Despite the challenge of the longer workouts, Russell said the mental adjustment has been more difficult.
“A lot of it is mentally getting your focus down,” he said. “Going with the flow and just trying to keep your composure.”
After Tuesday’s scrimmage, coach Gary Pinkel said the coaches have to sort out the kicking competition.
“The kicker situation, we’re going to have to settle it down,” Pinkel said. “We can’t continue to work with four kickers. You just can’t work with that with the numbers.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be OK and hopefully we’ll be better than OK.”
None of the four kickers has stood out during practice.
In the scrimmage, Pettersen converted a 48-yard field goal, but he also missed 41- and 39-yard attempts. Crossett and Russell each missed an extra point during the scrimmage and Tantarelli missed a 27-yard field goal.
INJURY UPDATE: Junior wide receiver Sean Coffey was back in full practice mode Wednesday, participating in contact drills as he recovers from a separated right shoulder. Senior receiver Thomson Omboga was held out of practice with a rib injury. Pinkel said there is no break, but an MRI showed cartilage damage.
Starting running back Damien Nash injured his left hamstring early in the workout and also donned a red jersey during the full squad drills.