Missouri football was back on its practice field across the street from Memorial Stadium for a morning of full-pads work in the Columbia heat Tuesday. Here are some notes from practice.
Tigers hone in on researched situational drills
MU coach Barry Odom said after Monday's practice that Tuesday was going to be one of the most important days of preseason camp, telling local reporters the team needed to have its best practice of the fall. He and the coaching staff rolled out a series of game-like situations for the Tigers to try out.
"Those situations, we kind of compiled," Odom said. "Everybody on the staff went through and researched the last couple years on situations at the end of games and what we need to work on."
Missouri's few losses in an impressive 2018 season were primarily heartbreakers, most notably to Kentucky, 15-14, on a walk-off touchdown following a pass interference that allowed an untimed down. The Tigers also were beaten at South Carolina on a last second-field goal, and their late rally in the Liberty Bowl against Oklahoma State fell short on a fourth-down quarterback scramble in the final minute.
Asked if Tuesday lived up to Odom's objective of being the fall's best practice, he said, “It was a really good practice. We got better today.
"You can’t script it perfectly, but also it causes the opportunity to have staff discussion and learning and teaching," he said. "Hopefully, when those situations come up, we have a calmness about us and know we’ve been there."
Bolton, Miller battle for second starting linebacker spot
While senior standout Cale Garrett is all but guaranteed to start in Missouri's 4-2-5 defense, the second starting linebacker spot is up for grabs as Nick Bolton and Aubrey Miller Jr. are waging a healthy position battle.
Bolton was introduced to college football in a unique setting last year, playing significant minutes and recording eight tackles at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Alabama's homecoming, all while replacing an ejected Terez Hall. He was the first player Missouri called on when the Tigers needed someone behind starters Hall, Garrett and Brandon Lee.
"The thing that I think (Bolton has) done better than most guys in that transition from playing as a freshman and now as a sophomore is football intelligence ... where he’s got help and where he doesn’t," Odom said. "He understands and is able to diagnose it really quickly, and I think some of that has to do with hanging out with Cale so much."
Bolton is currently listed as the second starter, but the junior Miller has crept into the picture thanks to one of the most impressive preseason camps of anyone on the team so far. Miller's effort has caught coaches' eyes.
"He's been awesome," Odom said. "The best part of what he has done in his entire career has been the last 10 days of practice."
Missouri adds defensive line commitment
MU landed a commitment for its 2020 recruiting class as three-star defensive tackle Montra Edwards Jr. pledged via Twitter on Tuesday morning.
Edwards is a 6-foot-3, 293-pound prospect from Lexington, Mississippi. He is Missouri's fourth defensive lineman commitment in the 2020 class, and the 14th overall.
Missouri's future defensive tackles will have big shoes to fill; the line's interior has featured imposing pass-rushers in just the last two years between Terry Beckner Jr., Walter Palmore and Jordan Elliott.
Okwuegbunam lands on preseason All-American first team
Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has been named a preseason first-team All-American by a CBS Sports panel that projected first and second teams.
In essence, that preseason honor serves as a prediction that Okwuegbunam will be the best tight end in the country. He had an opportunity to declare for the NFL draft after last season but opted to stay at MU for his junior year.
Okwuegbunam's health will be important to Missouri this season. As previously reported, he has missed time this fall due to injury. But MU told local reporters Tuesday to no longer report on fall camp injuries or on anyone who isn't participating in practice, until Odom provides weekly updates. This week, that will happen after practice on Thursday.
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.