Blaze Alldredge has only played in the Southeastern Conference for one week, but he's already made a name for himself.
The Missouri linebacker, a transfer from Rice University, recorded 3½ sacks, a team-high since Brian Smith earned four in 2006. He also led the Tiger defense with 10 tackles, eight of which were solo.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops knows Alldredge will be a threat to his offense when Missouri faces off against the Wildcats on Saturday.
“You can tell he has natural instincts and follows the football," Stoops said during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "He certainly fits into their scheme. They’re very aggressive. I’m sure they’ll have even some more pressure dialed up for us, but they do a nice job of getting in your face, playing man coverage and turning their guys loose up front. We’re definitely gonna have to be dialed in.”
While at Rice, Alldredge was two-time team MVP, the first defensive player to win the honor in consecutive years. He was the Owls' top pass-rusher in 2020 and earned 47 tackles across the season's five games.
Eliah Drinkwitz and company hit the phone lines to recruit Alldredge as soon as his name was in the transfer portal. The MU staff knew he'd be a good fit for its changing defense, one that had a gaping hole to fill in linebacker with the loss of Nick Bolton a year early to the NFL Draft.
Alldredge entered the portal Jan. 16. On Jan. 19, he announced he was joining Drinkwitz's program.
“We sold him on replacing Nick Bolton. I don’t know if we sold him that he had to be Nick Bolton," Drinkwitz said. "He’s gotta be Blaze Alldredge in our defense, but there was an opportunity for him to have the ability to play and obviously we were changing defense, so it wasn’t going to look the same as Nick did. It’s an opportunity."
Missouri's defense, though strong in Week 1, will have a harder test ahead in the SEC opener, especially when it comes to the pass-rush. Kentucky threw for 419 yards and four passing touchdowns against Louisiana-Monroe in its 45-10 season-opening win.
"Planes, trains and automobiles"
Missouri's path to Lexington, Kentucky, will be a challenge in its own right.
"We've got a little bit of a snafu because of the Columbia Airport being under construction right now, so we're having to change our travel, a lot, relative to what it's been," Drinkwitz said during his Tuesday press conference. "So that's gonna be interesting to see how we adjust to that adversity."
Construction began on a new terminal at the COU Regional Airport in the summer of 2020. The most recent development in the renovations has been the start of a runway extension that began Aug. 26.
As a result of the construction, half of Missouri football's travel party will fly to Kentucky out of St. Louis and the other half will leave from Columbia. Depending on weather and weight limits on the plane, there's a chance none of the program will be able to fly back into Columbia following the game.
Mike Parks, airport manager, told the Columbia Missourian he was unaware of the Missouri football flight and that the runway was open to all incoming and outgoing flights.
"However, charters and all other aircraft make decisions about flights based on runway and facility availability and their specific aircraft performance," Parks wrote in an email.
Missouri Athletics did not respond to a request for further comment on the travel situation.
Offensive lineman Case Cook, wide receiver Mookie Cooper and wide receiver D'ionte Smith are listed as probable for Saturday's game. Cooper is recovering from a foot injury, but said Wednesday it was no longer bothering him.
Defensive back Kris Abrams-Draine and wide receiver Barrett Banister are listed at questionable for undisclosed injuries, and defensive lineman Ben Key is doubtful. Wide receiver Ja'Mori Maclin and defensive lineman Cannon York are out.
Defensive lineman Travion Ford is no longer listed on the injury report.