During Missouri’s fall-camp scrimmages, sophomore tight end Jason Reese and freshman quarterback Drew Lock appeared to build excellent chemistry together.
So, don’t be surprised if Reese turns out to be something of a security blanket in Lock’s first career start.
Reese, who had career highs with three catches for 40 yards last week against Kentucky, also could be in line for his first career start with junior tight end Sean Culkin sidelined by a knee sprain.
“It’s what we prepare for,” Reese said. “We’ve been preparing a long time for this, and I’m ready to play.”
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Athletically, Reese is arguably the most gifted tight end on the Tigers’ roster.
“He’s potentially a very talented athlete, and this would be a good time for him to step it up and help our football team …,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
The Tigers are dealing with myriad suspensions and injuries as they prepare for their SEC home opener against South Carolina on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Maty Mauk and backup left tackle Malik Cuellar were suspended Tuesday for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Culkin, wide receiver DeSean Blair (concussion), right tackle Nate Crawford (ankle), tailbacks Trevon Walters (knee) and Morgan Steward (hip) and defensive tackle Harold Brantley (leg) also have been ruled out for the game, while senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers is questionable with a sprained ankle.
Missouri is desperate for a player to step up, especially on offense, and be a difference-maker. Reese hopes to fill that role.
“I want to be able to stretch the field vertically to open up our outside guys, like J’Mon Moore, and be able to get Nate Brown the ball more …,” Reese said. “Hopefully, if I can stretch the field vertically, we also can get the run game going more.
Reese was hampered by knee and ankle injuries toward the end of camp, which he said limited him during the first few games.
“But I’m feeling pretty good now,” Reese said. “Shout out to (MU head athletic trainer) Rex (Sharp) and our staff.”
If that chemistry with Lock carries over to Saturday, Reese is a good bet to reset his career highs for catches and yards once again.
South Carolina at Missouri
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium in Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Three story lines
1. REBOUNDING TIGERS: Missouri hasn’t lost two straight games since the end of the 2012 season, which wrapped up with losses against Syracuse and Texas A&M. The Tigers went 5-0 in games after a loss during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, including bowl victories against Oklahoma State and Minnesota.
2. NATIONAL LEADERS: Missouri senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who is questionable with a sprained left ankle, entered the week with a nation-leading 52 tackles. But he’s not the only Tigers tackler to be tops in the country. Sophomore defensive end Charles Harris is tied for first in the nation with 9 1/2 tackles for a loss.
3. BAGGETT KEEPS CLIMBING: Senior kicker Andrew Baggett has 319 career points, which is only 43 shy of Jeff Wolfert’s career scoring record at Missouri. Baggett, who has 56 field goals and 151 extra points, also trails Wolfert by three career field goals and 34 career extra points.