University of Missouri

Missouri defensive tackle Josh Augusta displays athletic ability

Missouri defensive tackle Josh Augusta showed off his good hands when he pulled down an interception in a crowd of players in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Central Florida.
Missouri defensive tackle Josh Augusta showed off his good hands when he pulled down an interception in a crowd of players in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Central Florida. The Associated Press

Missouri’s Josh Augusta swears there’s nothing he can’t do on a basketball court.

Tigers junior defensive end Shane Ray hasn’t seen it with his own eyes, but he’s heard stories that Augusta, a 6-foot-4 and 335-pound sophomore backup defensive tackle, regularly dunks during games at MU’s rec center.

“I can do everything on the court,” Augusta said with an ornery smile after Missouri’s 38-10 win last weekend against Central Florida. “Anything. You name it, and I can do it.”

Point guard? “Yep,” Augusta said.

Shoot threes? “Yes, I can do it,” he replied.

Slowly but surely, Augusta is proving he can do anything on a football field, too.

It was Augusta’s interception late in the third quarter of a Justin Holman pass that bounced high in the air off an offensive lineman’s helmet that turned the tide in Missouri’s favor.

Many observers marveled at Augusta’s athleticism to track the carom downfield, camp under it and then deftly catch the ball while falling to the ground.

“People don’t realize, just because you see that big kid there, you don’t think that he’s an athlete,” MU defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said. “We see him every day in practice, so I think Josh is a great athlete and those skills just came out for everybody else to see.”

Even Missouri’s wide receivers were impressed with Augusta’s hands.

“I didn’t see the ball move after it hit his hands, so I think he’s got some pretty good hands after seeing that catch,” senior wide receiver Bud Sasser said.

It might seem unusual for a defensive lineman. Then again, Augusta is unusual for a defensive lineman.

“A lot of people don’t believe it, but he did play wide receiver in high school,” defensive-line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “He’s a very talented individual. We knew that when we recruited him, and I expected him to make that play. When I saw the ball in the air and he was standing underneath it, I expected him to make that play.”

So did Augusta’s defensive teammates.

“I knew he had it, because you’re not going to get around Josh,” senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said. “That is a mountain of a man. He’s huge. If he wants the ball, he’s going to get it.”

Augusta, who was the Tigers’ most improved defensive lineman last spring, picked Missouri over offers from Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Oklahoma among others, according to Rivals.com. He played in all 14 games as a true freshman, recording nine tackles, with three for a loss and two sacks.

Augusta already is approaching those numbers only three games into his sophomore campaign, with six tackles, including 1 1/2 for a loss.

“The first week or two he was here, I was watching a highlight tape on him and he was returning punts and kicks and stuff,” quarterback Maty Mauk said. “I was like, ‘OK, I wish I had you back in high school.’ He’s a tremendous guy and, the things with him is, he’s young. He’s still learning and picking up the game. He’s got a chance to get much better.”

Perhaps Augusta’s performance against Central Florida — which included a career-high three tackles, with one for a loss, a forced fumble and that interception — was a coming out party for Augusta.

“You’re seeing about 10 feet of a 5-mile-long iceberg on him right now,” Kuligowski said. “Hopefully, he’ll keep tapping into that.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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