University of Missouri

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam makes AP preseason All-America first team

Barry Odom after Tuesday’s practice

Missouri coach Barry Odom after Tuesday’s practice.
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Missouri coach Barry Odom after Tuesday’s practice.

A day after barely missing the AP preseason top 25 poll, Missouri got some good news on the preseason awards front.

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was chosen to the AP’s preseason All-America first team, beating out Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney. Okweugbunam returned to practice on Tuesday after being limited last week because of a knee strain and is primed for a big season with MU.

The 6-foot-5 tight end played in just nine games for MU in 2018 after he broke a bone in his shoulder at Florida. Despite missing MU’s final four games, Okwuegbunam was still a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Okwuegbunam debated declaring for the NFL Draft in the winter, but elected to come up to MU for his redshirt junior season after the NFL Draft Advisory Board graded him as a second-round pick.

“I believe I’m a first-round talent,” Okwuegbunam said of his decision. “Besides that, there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish as a team.”

In his injury-shortened season, Okwuegbunam caught 43 passes for 466 yards and six touchdowns. Okwuegubnam also was chosen to the All-Southeastern Conference preseason first team by the media and coaches. Missouri opens its season at Wyoming on Aug. 31. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Preseason AP All-America team

First-team offense

Quarterback — Trevor Lawrence, sophomore, Clemson.

Running back — Jonathan Taylor, junior, Wisconsin; Travis Etienne, junior, Clemson.

Tackles — Andrew Thomas, junior, Georgia; Walker Little, junior, Stanford.

Guards — Shane Lemieux, senior, Oregon; Ben Bredeson, senior, Michigan.

Center — Tyler Biadasz, junior, Wisconsin.

Tight end — Albert Okwuegbunam, junior, Missouri.

Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, junior, Alabama; Tylan Wallace, junior, Oklahoma State.

All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, sophomore, Purdue.

Kicker — Andre Szmyt, sophomore, Syracuse.

First-team defense

Ends — Chase Young, junior, Ohio State; A.J. Epenesa, junior, Iowa.

Tackles — Derrick Brown, senior, Auburn; Raekwon Davis, senior, Alabama.

Linebackers — Dylan Moses, junior, Alabama; Isaiah Simmons, junior, Clemson; Joe Bachie, senior, Michigan State.

Cornerbacks — Bryce Hall, senior, Virginia; Paulson Adebo, junior, Stanford.

Safeties — Grant Delpit, junior, LSU; Andre Cisco, sophomore, Syracuse.

Punter — Braden Mann, senior, Texas A&M.

Second-team offense

Quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa, junior, Alabama.

Running backs — D’Andre Swift, junior, Georgia; Eno Benjamin, junior, Arizona State.

Tackles — Trey Adams, senior, Washington; Calvin Throckmorton, senior, Oregon.

Guards — Tommy Kraemer, senior, Notre Dame; John Simpson, senior, Clemson.

Center — Nick Harris, senior, Washington.

Tight end — Jared Pinkney, senior, Vanderbilt.

Wide receivers — Laviska Shenault Jr., junior, Colorado; Justyn Ross, sophomore, Clemson.

All-purpose player — CeeDee Lamb, junior, Oklahoma.

Kicker — Rodrigo Blankenship, senior, Georgia.

Second-team defense

Ends — Kenny Willekes, senior, Michigan State; Julian Okwara, senior, Notre Dame.

Tackles — Leki Fotu, senior, Utah; Marvin Wilson, junior, Florida State.

Linebackers — Paddy Fisher, junior, Northwestern; Evan Weaver, senior, California; Shaquille Quarterman, senior, Miami.

Cornerbacks — Kristian Fulton, senior, LSU; CJ Henderson, junior, Florida.

Safeties — Alohi Gillman, junior, Notre Dame; Jordan Fuller, senior, Ohio State.

Punter — James Smith, junior, Cincinnati.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.