There might have been a tear welling up in Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s eye Tuesday as he wrapped up perhaps his final public remarks after 14 seasons with the Tigers.
“My whole focus and my whole life is about my players,” Steckel said during a Citrus Bowl news conference inside a Buffalo Wild Wings, getting momentarily choked up. “And I’m going to miss them.”
Steckel has worked hard to keep his emotions in check since he was introduced Dec. 14 as the next football coach at Missouri State.
“My emotions will probably come after the game,” Steckel said. “Right now, my focus is … about sending these players out on a win. When it’s all over and you sit back, then there might be a sigh of relief and there might be some reminiscing. But until then, you’ve got to keep focused. That’s what I preach to the players, so it’s my job to stay focused also.”
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Missouri’s players also want to send to Steckel out right.
“We understand that coach Stec has a great opportunity to do something that he’s been wanting to do his whole life,” junior defensive end Shane Ray said. “We just appreciate the time that he’s given to us as players, and we want to make sure that we send him out on a good note.”
Former Missouri safeties coach Barry Odom, who played linebacker for the Tigers under Larry Smith, was hired last week as Steckel’s replacement.
SM Northwest grad draws praise
Minnesota senior tight end Drew Goodger’s stats don’t jump off the page.
Goodger, a Shawnee Mission Northwest graduate, has caught one pass for nine yards this season, but he remains integral to the Golden Gophers’ offense.
“In our offense, you’ve got to have a tight end,” Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “You’ve got to have a guy at the point of attack that you can really trust, and he’s been that rock for four years.
Goodger, a member of coach Jerry Kill’s first Gophers recruiting class in 2011, also has sacrificed for the team.
“Coach Kill has called him the toughest man he knows, because just about every play a shoulder’s popping out or he’s spraining an ankle, but he just walks right back out there and works to get the job done,” Limegrover said. “He’s a guy that’s like an offensive lineman. He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet very often, but he’s such a valuable part of what we do.”
Brown, Otte get chance to shine
With senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt sidelined after undergoing shoulder surgery, freshman Nate Brown and senior Gavin Otte will split time at slot receiver.
“Those guys are going to get in there and do great,” Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “So many times, it’s just about getting an opportunity and this is those guys’ opportunity to step up and make some plays for the team.”
Hunt was second on MU with 40 receptions, 698 yards and seven touchdowns, including six catches for 169 yards against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
One thing stood out as Limegrover watched film of the Tigers’ defense the last few weeks.
“On bowl selection Sunday, I didn’t have any gray hair and then I started watching their front four and things have changed significantly,” he joked.
Defensive ends Shane Ray, Markus Golden and Charles Harris along with defensive tackles Harold Brantley, Matt Hoch, Lucas Vincent and Josh Augusta form as opposing a defensive line as Minnesota has encountered.
“I’m not afraid to say they’re going to be the best front we’ve faced all year as far as all four guys, and they have real good depth and they’re going to keep coming after you,” Limegrover said.