Campus Corner

Ask Tod: Injury news, bowl projections and thoughts on men’s basketball

Missouri Tigers wide receiver Nate Brown scored a touchdown while being shoved by South Carolina Gamecocks safety Isaiah Johnson during a game last season.
Missouri Tigers wide receiver Nate Brown scored a touchdown while being shoved by South Carolina Gamecocks safety Isaiah Johnson during a game last season. skeyser@kcstar.com

Missouri junior wide receiver Nate Brown is recovering from a training-camp ankle surgery, but he’s not particularly close to returning.

“He had that surgery on a high ankle sprain with some other things done there and he began running last week,” first-year coach Barry Odom said. “Now, the running was straight ahead and not changing direction and things, but he’s made great progress and he’s ahead of schedule.”

If Brown can come back and be effective, he still may find his way onto the field this season, though a redshirt also remains an option with the season nearly half over.

However, Odom said, “he won’t be in position to play next week or the following week for sure, I wouldn’t think, just watching him run. But he’s working extremely hard.”

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson also is nursing an ankle injury, which he aggravated at LSU.

“On that last kickoff return, (he) kind of reinjured that,” Odom said.

Johnson was going to be limited in practice during the bye week “and expect him to be full speed going forward,” Odom said.

Senior linebacker Donavin Newsom played a couple snaps in the second half after he was the victim of a targeting penalty. He sat out the rest of the second half and is in the concussion protocol.

Now, on to your questions:

Yes, I still think Missouri makes a bowl game, and it doesn’t even really matter what happens Oct. 15 at Florida. The defining stretch of the season now for the Tigers is the four games after that.

Mizzou must go 4-0 against Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. I suspect Odom’s crew will be favored in those games, though it’s possible the Gamecocks will get the nod from Vegas because that game’s in Columbia East.

Still, MU is probably better than those four opponents and a sweep through that late October/early November portion of the schedule gets the team to six wins. That, of course, is the magic number for bowl eligibility.

That doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t capable of beating Florida, Tennessee or Arkansas, but it takes the pressure off to have to beat the Gators or Volunteers on the road or upset the Razorbacks at home in the regular-season finale to ensure a bowl berth.

The caveat, of course, is that Mizzou’s margin for error isn’t great this season. The offense has struggled against seasoned and athletic Power Five conference defenses — the first half against Georgia notwithstanding — and the defense has had issues with tackling among other faults.

But, if I were a betting man, I’d say Odom’s first season ends with a bowl appearance somewhere. USA Today and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach disagree, but Sports Illustrated and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports project the Tigers to the Texas Bowl (Dec. 28 vs. Oklahoma State in Houston) and ESPN’s Brett McMurphy has them in the Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 29 vs. Tulsa).

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the Independence Bowl also would be in play along with the Texas and Birmingham Bowls.

It’s hard to say. Obviously, football is a secondary (and maybe even lower) concern right now as the storm batters the East Coast. If the damage is as severe as predicted, sure, it could affect the Gators in myriad ways. There could be damage to property, including practice facilities, or injuries or deaths, god forbid, that result from Hurricane Matthew.

The destruction in Haiti was substantial and, while it probably won’t be as bad in Florida, there’s likely to be a months-long recovery process ahead for the region. At the same time, sports have a way of galvanizing communities during times of shared stress, grief and disaster. It’s possible Florida, the football team, and the wider community could rally behind a silly game as a moment of respite, relief and/or hope.

It’s kind of impossible to predict, but I just hope everyone down there — family, friends and complete strangers — are safe.

Certainly, you’re not the only one, but I still think we’re talking baby steps here. The players enter the season with an NCAA Tournament appearance as the goal. It’s lofty — and some of you might even think laughable — but any team that doesn’t enter the season with that goal might as well not suit up. It would be incredibly disappointing if the Tigers’ ambition before the season was, “We’re hoping to make the College Basketball Invitational and finish eighth in the Southeastern Conference.”

Now, if that’s where Missouri winds up, the season could well be considered successful given a 19-44 record the last two seasons, including 10 losses by 20 points or more, and back-to-back 3-15 marks in conference play. Perhaps there is some homerism at play, but the knucklehead quotient on the Tigers’ roster is way down and might even be approaching zero. That’s not been the case in coach Kim Anderson’s first two seasons.

Sophomores Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips absolutely have bought in, but I really think the whole roster has. It’s a roster composed solely of Anderson’s guys for the first time and there’s more talent and athleticism than the last few years. There are still glaring holes. Mizzou doesn’t have an alpha-dog scorer to rely upon and still lacks size inside. Maybe freshman Mitchell Smith or Reed Nikko can bring an element of rim protection and toughness in the paint, but that’s a lot to ask of guys fresh out of high school. It’s encouraging that it seems possible.

Former Garfield Heights teammates Willie Jackson and Frankie Hughes from Cleveland bring a lot to the table. Jackson is a tenacious rebounder and strong defender, while Hughes could very well end up being the Tigers’ leading scorer. When Jordan Barnett becomes eligible Dec. 17 against Eastern Illinois, the makeup of the team gets even better.

Mizzou lost nine of its last 11 games in 2015-16, but the Tigers were somewhat competitive during that stretch after absorbing a 32-point beating at Kentucky on Jan. 27. I think Anderson’s crew will continue that trend and surprise a few people this season. Now, how many wins that will translate into, I have no idea. With a few breaks 15 wins — with a margin of error of two games — seems like a reasonable expectation.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

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