Barry Odom after Thursday’s practice
With Missouri’s football season just more than two weeks away, a number of key players are nursing injuries but most are considered minor, Tigers coach Barry Odom told reporters on Thursday.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam continues to rehab a strained right knee, but Odom said the 6-foot-5 junior is close to being 100%. Defensive end Tre Williams, who was recently reinstated to the team, had pain in his surgically repaired left shoulder, which limited him in practice, but would play if MU had a game on Saturday.
Slot receiver Johnathon Johnson is in a walking boot because of a sprained right toe. Odom is approaching this injury cautiously because of the threat to Johnson’s speed. He is approaching the program’s career receiving yards record.
Defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat is still considered week-to-week because of a sprained elbow and fellow lineman Jordan Elliott was dealing with soreness. Missouri is hoping Jeffcoat can produce on a defensive line that has lacked a pass rush in recent seasons, but also has juniors Akail Byers and Chris Turner to lean on.
Odom said Elliott will play in Saturday’s closed scrimmage.
Blue Springs’ graduate Daniel Parker Jr. is practicing again after dealing with a shoulder sprain earlier in the week. Backup defensive tackle Chris Daniels is practicing, but Odom said MU is trying to get him to lose some weight before the season.
Missouri did lose a key player for considerable time as Odom announced tight end Brendan Scales will miss six to eight weeks after breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his foot. Scales had surgery on Thursday morning.
“I hate it because he had made up so much great and was really going to help us,” Odom said. “I hate it for the kid because he was really turning the corner.”
Scales was drawing praises from the offensive coaching staff after a strong spring and extended time with the first-team in practice in light of Okwuegbunam’s injury.
Odom said he expects true freshman tight end Niko Hea to play the entire season. A Christian Brothers College graduate, Hea was a late addition to Missouri’s 2019 class after a strong senior season and has impressed many.
“He’s picked up the scheme really well,” said A.J. Ofodile, MU’s tight ends coach. “He had a monster senior year. We go so fast in recruiting that you forget the senior evaluation is going to be the best one, most accurate one to what they translate to at the next level. He’s done a great job of getting bigger and stronger. Really like what we’ve seen from him.”
The NCAA’s four-game redshirt rule will enter its second season this fall and Odom said he plans to play all true freshmen four games, with Hea and a handful of others currently expected to burn their redshirt. Odom said he doesn’t expect true freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak to get more than four games, but added that could change.