University of Missouri

Justin Smith challenges, J’den Cox inspires Mizzou football team

Former Missouri star defensive end Justin Smith, who retired from the NFL following the 2014 season, spoke to the Mizzou football team on Thursday.
Former Missouri star defensive end Justin Smith, who retired from the NFL following the 2014 season, spoke to the Mizzou football team on Thursday. AP

Former Missouri All-American and five-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith didn’t pull any punches Thursday when he spoke to the 2016 Tigers.

“There’s not a lot of gray area with him,” first-year coach Barry Odom said after practice Friday. “He called a couple guys out in the crowd. It was awesome. He’s unbelievable.”

The crux of Smith’s 20-minute message was simple.

“He did a great job, as Justin only can do, on talking about trying to outwork your opponent, on really playing tough and physical and not leaving anything to chance and busting your (butt) — all the things that make Justin Smith, Justin Smith,” Odom said.

Smith, a Jefferson City native, retired from pro football after the 2014 season and returned to mid-Missouri.

“I want him around, since he’s in Columbia now, to spend time with us,” Odom said. “He’s such an awesome competitor and great Missouri Tiger.”

Wrestling coach Brian Smith also spoke to the team earlier in camp.

Odom made it clear the Tigers football team will be paying attention when MU wrestler J’den Cox makes his Olympic debut Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.

“He’s got a whole bunch of people in our locker room that are friends with him and wish him the best,” Odom said. “What an unbelievable experience for that kid and for the state of Missouri and the university.”

Cox, a two-time NCAA champion at 197 pounds, was drawn into the bottom half of his 86-kilogram freestyle bracket.

He received a bye in the preliminary round and will face the winner between Aslan Kakhidze of Kazakhstan versus Amarhajy Mahamedau of Belarus in his first match. Preliminaries begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with the medal rounds slated for 2 p.m.

Matches will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and some may be televised across the network’s array of channels.

Evening scrimmage

Missouri has moved its second fall-camp scrimmage Saturday, which is not open to the public or media, from the afternoon to the evening.

Odom explained the decision is “just to get under the lights a little bit. We need some work there.”

The Tigers’ first two home games of the season — Sept. 10 against Eastern Michigan and Sept. 17 against Georgia — are 6:30 p.m. kickoffs.

Mizzou, which will have Sunday and Monday off from practice as classes begin, opens the season at 11 a.m. Sept. 3 at West Virginia.

Injury updates

Senior linebacker Donavin Newsom and freshman linebacker Trey Baldwin missed Friday’s afternoon practice after banging heads during the morning practice.

Both were going through Missouri’s concussion protocol. It’s the second time Baldwin has dealt with a head injury in camp and Odom stressed that he will not be rushed back.

Freshman running back Damarea Crockett also sat out with a sprained shoulder, while senior defensive tackle Josh Augusta was excused for a pre-planned doctor’s appointment with a family member, according to Odom.

“If we were playing tomorrow, (Crockett) would play …,” Odom said. “I’m trying to get the balance there. He needs a lot of work. He’s also guy that can help us and is going to help us week one, so we’re trying to be smart on getting him enough work and also resting him when he needs to rest.”

Crockett will not participate in the scrimmage, but Augusta will.

However, sophomore wide receiver Emanuel Hall (hamstring), senior tight end Sean Culkin (left MCL sprain) and redshirt freshman running back Ryan Williams (hamstring) remain sidelined.

Redshirt freshman cornerback T.J. Warren (hamstring) continues to be limited at practice, but he is expected to participate in the scrimmage.

Three other players are out long-term.

Junior wide receiver Nate Brown will be for several weeks after ankle surgery, while freshman offensive lineman Darvis Holmes remains sidelined recovering from shoulder surgery and redshirt freshman offensive lineman is away from the team because of illness.

Odom said surgery on Brown and Holmes “went very well.”

“They feel like, after the procedure was over, maybe the timeline could be sped up a little bit,” Odom said. “That’s good news.”

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