NCAA rule clears path for Mizzou youth movement
COLUMBIA, MO. • Fourteen of Missouri’s 22 scholarship freshmen saw action in Saturday’s win over Tennessee-Martin, more freshmen than Tigers coach Barry Odom can ever recall playing in one game. The NCAA’s new redshirt rule is to thank.
“We wanted to get to that point last year against Idaho but didn’t get there because of the rule,” Odom said Tuesday. “We played about everybody that we could the other day.”
The new NCAA redshirt rule allows players to appear in a maximum of four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility, but of those 14 freshmen, Mizzou appears set on playing at least six the whole season, including Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff against Wyoming (1-1): receivers Jalen Knox, Kam Scott and Dominic Gicinto, running back Tyler Badie, linebacker Nick Bolton and cornerback Denzel Ware. Odom specifically mentioned Ware as a player the staff wants to use in a bigger role the rest of the season.
“The things I’ve seen him do over the course of the last two weeks he’ll be in position to keep pressing and we’re not going to worry about the four games,” Odom said Tuesday. “He’s going to help us in a lot of different roles because of his length and speed and confidence and football IQ and understanding of what we’re asking him to do.”
The others who saw the field in Saturday’s game were offensive linemen Xavier Delgado and Mike Ruth, tight end Daniel Parker Jr., defensive ends Trajan Jeffcoat and Jatorian Hansford, linebacker Gerald Nathan Jr., cornerback Tyrone Collins and wideout Khmari Thompson.
Two of the eight rookies who didn’t play are recovering from injuries: tight end Messiah Swinson, likely out for the season with a torn ACL, and linebacker Chad Bailey, who’s recovering from thumb surgery.
For all the experience Missouri’s roster features, especially on offense, Odom has the SEC’s second-youngest team when it comes to the roster’s percentage of freshmen and sophomores (63.7). In the SEC, only Georgia has a higher percentage of underclassmen (67.4). Mizzou’s rate ranks No. 26 nationally, with Illinois having the highest percentage of freshmen and sophomores at 76.5.
Missouri’s three players who sat out all or parts of Saturday’s win over Tennessee-Martin were back on the practice field Tuesday taking part in most drills.
Left guard Kevin Pendleton, a starter since the start of the 2016 season, was scratched from the lineup last week with a sprained knee.
Backup defensive tackle Rashad Brandon sat out all of Saturday’s game with a sprained ankle.
Starting free safety Khalil Oliver left the game with a sprained ankle.
All three are back on the most recent depth chart, with Pendleton and Oliver listed as starters.
Wide receiver and punt returner Richaud Floyd is off crutches and wearing an air splint for his broken foot.
“The next step is get him out running straight ahead and doing change of direction stuff,” Odom said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back soon.”
Odom was surprised Tennessee-Martin didn’t call more fair catches on kickoff returns Saturday. The NCAA’s new kickoff rule gives the return team the ball at the 25-yard line if they fair catch a kickoff inside the 25. MU’s Tucker McCann had no trouble blasting the ball into the end zone with the wind at his back, but when MU kicked into the wind in the second and third quarters, Tennessee-Martin opted to return three kickoffs that were caught inside the 25. All three returns, caught at the 6, 3 and 1-yard lines, failed to reach the 25, ending at the 18, 20 and 24, respectively.
PASS RUSH CONCERNS?
Mizzou had two sacks on Saturday, both by inside linebackers, Terez Hall and Jacob Trump. That doesn’t mean Odom was disappointed with the front four’s pressure.
“Within the calls we had I was Ok with the pressure they provided because of what the play call was,” Odom said. “We were about as basic as we can get. You want to win some one-on-one matchups as well, but I think the quarterback at times felt some pressure.”
WYOMING SCOUTING REPORT
Wyoming freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal has completed just 51 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown, but the Cowboys’ running game has Odom’s attention. Wyoming has averaged 48 rushing attempts in two games, putting up 312 yards two weeks ago against New Mexico State. Washington State held the Cowboys to 139 yards and 3.6 per carry on Saturday.
“They want to run the ball,” Odom said. “There’s no confusion about that. They have a couple good backs who can do that. Up front schematically they do a good job of working to the next level and double teaming. They find a little crease and all of a sudden you line up and it’s second and 4. They’re getting 6 yards. Then they’ll break one. It was more of a controlled passing game the other night against Washington State but they also had a guy open on perfect deep ball but he didn’t end up making the catch. The quarterback’s got some skill. He looks good on the move throwing the ball. The delay play-action game has been good for them. They do just enough to keep you of balance.
“For any second you relax just a little bit they’ve got two guys on the outside who can get behind you quickly. We’ve got to be assignment sound and dialed in. Number one we’ve got stop the run.”