On the same day he was named a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press, Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam returned to practice Tuesday after being in a no-contact red jersey for much of the last two weeks.
Okwuegbunam participated in most of Missouri’s drills Tuesday after spending previous practices recovering from a sprained knee. He suffered the injury in practice two weeks ago.
“I would much rather him be out there than be in red,” Odom said.
Assuming he stays healthy, Okwuegbunam’s presence solves issues surrounding the Tigers’ tight end depth. Daniel Parker Jr. has been off and on with a minor shoulder injury and Brendan Scales broke a bone in his foot last week, sidelining him for 6 to 8 weeks. Okwuegbunam has been MU’s top priority; the junior is on multiple preseason All-American lists after turning down a chance to enter the NFL draft in spring.
“I think (we have) the opportunity to put (Okwuegbunam) in that position to have a mismatch with a linebacker in coverage or maybe a safety, finding ways to get him the ball,” Odom said. “Also, he helps us in the running game. He’s big-bodied. There are things in the play-action game.”
McCann officially named punter to start season
Tucker McCann has transitioned back into an old role he had in high school, adding “punter” back to his repertoire this offseason. Odom said after Tuesday’s practice that the MU place-kicker has indeed claimed the starting punting responsibilities over other younger candidates.
“Tucker will take both and he’s earned it,” Odom said. “Until somebody goes and takes it from him, he’s going to be the guy.”
Freshmen who have impressed
There’s been a lot of talk at recent practices about college football’s redshirt rule, according to which players can be used in four games without burning their redshirt. This allows freshmen who don’t get much playing time to get their first taste of game time early without wasting a season of eligibility.
Some Missouri freshmen are likely to appear in more than four games though: Odom said Tuesday he’s been especially impressed by receiver Maurice Massey, safeties Stacy Brown and Martez Manuel, defensive lineman Darius Robinson and offensive lineman Thalen Robinson.
“It’s hard to tell he’s a true freshman,” Odom said of the latter.
Thalen Robinson might get some chances when redshirt sophomores Larry Borom and Hyrin White aren’t in. Both are new starters in place of a tough-to-replace duo, Paul Adams and Kevin Pendleton. Experience will be the key as the season goes on.
“(Borom and White) have got a lot to learn when the lights are on, but they’ve done a nice job,” Odom said. “They’re both athletic and understand the scheme of what we’re trying to get done.”
West Virginia names starting quarterback
On the the other side of the country, a position battle quite relevant to Missouri was decided Tuesday.
First-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown officially named Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall the Mountaineers’ 2019 starting quarterback. Kendall beat out Jack Allison and Jarret Doege, a Bowling Green transfer, for the title of heir to Will Grier.
Missouri takes on West Virginia at Faurot Field in the Tigers’ home opener Sept. 7. MU kicks off its season a week earlier at Wyoming.
Supervising editor is Rajdeep Barman.