Kellen Winslow, Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman, Michael Egnew...after his freshman season in 2017, Albert Okwuegbunam was destined to join the pantheon of Missouri All-American tight ends. That....didn’t happen.
Part of that might simply be misplaced expectations based off of a dynamite freshman year. Much like all Odom players, Albert O exploded on to the scene in 2017 but never really improved; in fact, you can legitimately argue that his production got worse over his three years in Columbia. Look at his stats: the dang thing looks like it’s in reverse!
A freshman shouldn’t have a 64.3% success rate on 10 yards per target with 11 touchdowns from the tight end position! That’s absurd! The fact that his success rate plummeted over the next two years, as well as his yards per target, should have all of you nodding in sad approval.
So what changed? Well, injuries for one. The 2018 season was cut short with a shoulder injury against Florida, and 2019 saw Albert O battle nagging injuries over the entire year. Over his three years at Mizzou, he never played more than 9 games. That’s certainly a red flag for NFL GMs.
Second, Derek Dooley had no freaking clue how to use him. Albert O was a great red zone threat, yes, but that’s all Dooley wanted to use him for, rarely deploying him in the open field. Former OC Josh Heupel used to run a play-action scheme that got Albert open...like...every single time. And even if he wasn’t streaking down the field for a touchdown, the routes he was running helped move the chains at a bare minimum. Whether it was injuries or “strategy”, Dooley kept his best receiving weapon out of the scheme, only using him in red zone situations.
Lastly, Albert isn’t great at blocking. Can he get in front of a guy and stop him from tackling the ball carrier? Ok, yes. But his technique in blocking was always lacking and rarely did you see him actively moving a guy away from the ball. That’s why Daniel Parker, Jr. got so much action from the H-back position because DPJ bulldozes people, man! Albert? Well...he gets hurt. So he’s limited to merely making awesome catches and scoring touchdowns.
I would argue that Albert O can be so much more than a red zone threat but that’s for the NFL to decide. If a team flexes him out into the slot he can provide a good zone-busting target and has the wheels to streak down field as well (as reinforced during his blazing 40-yard dash time). He’s too athletic to not get a look, but there are 15 other tight ends who are projected to go before him. Expect Mr. Okwuegbunam to get his name botched/called somewhere in the 4th or 5th round. And if he starts making amazing plays and mega money for years to come, just remember that Derek Dooley still has a job coaching football and you do not.