We are skipping over wide receivers, as I'm already tired of being on the same schedule as Inside Mizzou's daily position previews--I want to be unique, dammit! We'll do tight ends today, O-line tomorrow, and wide receivers Saturday after Jeremy Maclin's late-Friday-morning announcement.
Andrew Jones (6'5, 240, sophomore)
2008: 20 catches, 146 yards
One of (technically) three true freshman tight ends to see their redshirts torn off in 2008 (including TE/long snapper Beau Brinkley), Jones got a leg up on the field for 2009 by filling in admirably during Chase Coffman's turf toe absence. We're talking about a limited sample size here, but Jones showed toughness and a very reliable set of hands. He also looked like he had bulked up a little from the beginning of the season and should end up being able to pretty easily carry 245-255 pounds on his 6'5 frame.
If there's one single difference between Jones and Coffman, it's in pure athleticism. I don't see Andrew Jones hurtling anybody anytime soon (though with his likely ability to win collisions pretty well, I'm not against him trying and seeing what happens--just don't break your wrist on the way down), and it's unlikely that he'll put up too many big gainers (Coffman's longest catch of the season was for 48 yards; Jones: 15), but aside from a reliable running game, the most important weapon a QB can have at his disposal is a reliable target on third-and-6. There is almost no doubt that Jones can and will become a big-time chains mover, which will allow Blaine Gabbert (or whoever wins the starting job) to take more chances on deep routes, knowing that he can still convert a first down on an underneath route on the next down.
The Iowa State game was Jones' shining moment from this season. You can check out some of what Jones has to offer at the 1:32, 3:23, 3:31, 4:16 and 5:03 marks of this video.
Michael Egnew (6'6, 220, sophomore)
2008: 4 catches, 22 yards
If Jones is the relatively known quantity, Michael Egnew is the wild card. With Danario Alexander hurt, Egnew spent the first few weeks doing a reasonably credible wide receiver impersonation before moving back down to #3 TE on the depth chart after Alexander got rolling. Egnew, who clearly needs a nickname...Eggo or something...was a solid downfield blocker and effort guy in his time on the field, but when you watch him play, you quickly start thinking two things: 1) Damn, this guy needs to put on about 20 pounds, and 2) Damn, this guy could be one ridiculously athletic tight end.
If Andrew Jones is in the Martin Rucker mold of tight end, Egnew is the longer, leaner Coffman model. That's where I'm going to stop any comparison of anybody to Coffman, but those are the roles Jones and Egnew could play if both continue to improve on the field. I'm excited about Egnew's upside, but I'm much less sure of his becoming a guaranteed contributor.
Jon Gissinger (6'3, 240, senior)
2008: 1 catch, 10 yards
This Poway, CA, product has been a solid team player and backup for going on four years now, and it appears that he will be the same in 2009. Each spring, Giss makes some ridiculous catch that makes me think he should probably crack into the TE rotation, but a) he's been stuck behind some ridiculously good tight ends, and b) well, I guess he doesn't make those plays all the time, huh? Gissinger is a solid special teams contributor and all-around athlete, but he just hasn't quite been able to see the field much yet. With two sophomores in front of him, it wouldn't surprise me to see him used as the main blocking back on those rare occasions when a Mizzou TE is used primarily as such.
And here's to hoping he gets to catch a few passes his senior year!
There were no scholarship redshirts at this position.
Sheldon Richardson (6'4, 290, St. Louis)
This product of Gateway High looks like the perfect prototype at defensive tackle, but he has expressed wishes that he either end up at tight end or defensive end. He apparently wasn't carrying a full 290 pounds at US Army All-American practices, due to basketball. We've all heard the stories by now about how ridiculous an athlete he is (he even returned kickoffs!), and I'm sure he would be a powerful, unique weapon to have at TE, but I think my ultimate preference is that he becomes a 6'4, 275 pound monster at defensive end (we need as many great athletes as we can get on that side of the ball). Pinkel and Staff always let the player decide which position he wants to play, though, so we'll see what SR decides. He'll be an impact player wherever he goes--he really is a freak of an athlete--but here's to hoping he's a DE.
Alex Sanders (6'5, 205, Springfield)
Sanders' Rivals film revealed a guy who, while probably too slow to be a wide receiver, is a smooth athlete with solid hands who can do a lot of damage after the catch. His frame looks like it could easily hold another 30-40 pounds as well. He is an exciting prospect and future weapon...as long as he recovers fully from the torn ACL and LCL he suffered back in October. Though he should be just fine in the future, you have to figure the injury assures him of a 2009 redshirt.
Okay, I don't actually think Wingo will end up a tight end in college, but I joked yesterday that he could play any of about 12 positions, and at 6'3, 215, technically tight end could be one of them. And as I said with Wingo, if he comes back from Fayetteville without committing, the biggest threat to getting him to Mizzou will have probably passed.
2008 vs 2009
The tight end position could be a strength for Missouri in 2009, but it will be nothing like that to which Mizzou has grown accustomed. There is simply no way to replace a player like Chase Coffman--he is potentially the greatest tight end Mizzou will ever see--but there are candidates and options, and in a rebuilding year it's all about options.
2009 Mizzou TEs on the YouTubes