Mizzou’s Football Team Turns To Revamped, Unadvertised Tight Ends Cast | Mizzou Sports News

COLUMBIA, Mo. — There’s a lingering mystery about the Missouri football team’s attack. And, no, we’re not talking about the unresolved quarterback competition.

What happens at the close end of the race?

The program that once produced all-time greats from Kellen Winslow to Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman to Albert Okwuegbunam, is now turning to a fairly anonymous cast of inexperienced players after an off-season exodus of the most seasoned players from the listing. Oh, and the Tigers also have a new position coach.

The three tight ends who played the most last year are gone: Daniel Parker Jr. (465 snaps) traded to Oklahoma; Niko Hea (365 years old) retired sports doctor; and Messiah Swinson (152) left for Arizona State. Not one was an All-Southeastern Conference player, but Parker and Hea combined for five of the team’s 19 touchdowns.

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As a trio, they accounted for 11.8% of team passing targets (51), 11.6% of receiving yards (35), and 9.5% of team receiving yards (288). So we’re not talking about the most prolific pass capture threats. Six tight ends from other SEC teams had more receiving yards than all of Mizzou’s tight ends combined.

But position plays a vital role in coach Eli Drinkwitz’s system as offensive point blockers in his zonal running pattern and outlets in the passing game. Who gets the bulk of the shots this year?

“We are certainly inexperienced in all areas, but I think we have a hungry group who are excited for the opportunity,” said position coach Erik Link, who has added tight end coaching duties. to his plate after Casey Woods left the staff for coordinator. work at Southern Methodist University. “I think there’s probably a little problem on their shoulder just because outside there hasn’t been a lot of expectation. They’re certainly looking forward to showing what they can do and to fulfill their role with the attack.

Starting with redshirt freshman Ryan Hoerstkamp. His 71 snaps last season are the most among Mizzou’s returning tight ends, although 56 of those plays came in the final two games of the season once Parker left the team. Parker grabbed the game-winning 2-point conversion in overtime against Florida on Nov. 20, but didn’t make the trip to Arkansas the following week and instead entered the NCAA transfer portal. He announced his commitment to Oklahoma the same night the Tigers lost to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Hoerstkamp, ​​a three-star former Washington High recruit, played just four games last year — and didn’t have a bye — but preserved his eligibility year. Since arriving on campus in January 2021, he has gone from 220 pounds to 245 and has worked with the first unit since the start of spring training and through the first week of preseason camp.

“I’m faster and stronger and my body is much better built,” he said. Strength Coach Ryan “Russell did a great job teaching us what to do and I applied it to everything. It really changed my body and really changed my style of play. High school doesn’t really matter. When you get to college, you can’t be slow in the SEC. You can’t be weak in the SEC.

Hoerstkamp’s long playing time against Arkansas and the Army opened his eyes to the physical demands of the sport at this level.

“I feel like all college athletes get to the point where they don’t know what it’s like anymore. This is all foreign to you,” he said. “You’re from high school and now these guys weigh 300 pounds and 6-5 and run a 4.4 (40 yard dash) So the bowl game really confirmed that I can do it and I can really impact this team.

“He’s had a great summer,” Link said, “and had a great spring and we expect him to be one of those guys for sure who’s vying for the job.”

Then there’s Tyler Stephens, the only tight end on the roster with considerable playing experience — but not in the SEC. He has spent the past two seasons at the University at Buffalo, where last season he caught 15 passes for 157 yards and converted 11 of those receptions on first downs. At 6-foot-6 and 249 pounds, he could become an attractive red-zone target.

“He’s a guy who has a lot of the physical tools you’re looking for, a lot of the metrics you’re looking for,” Link said, “and definitely a guy who’s in the mix.”

The Tigers hope to enter games with a rotation of four tight ends available, Link said. Other nominees include freshman Max Whisner, redshirt freshman Gavin McKay, sophomore Shawn Hendershot, and graduate student Kibet Chepyator, who earned playing time at late last year when defections depleted the depth.

“Coach Link, ‘Drink’ Coach, all the staff have done a really good job of making it more of a brotherhood,” Hoerstkamp said. “That’s one of the things that I felt like we lacked in the past, just not having that brotherhood. … Everyone is fighting for each other. In the tight ends room, it’s is special.

There is help on the way.

The Tigers have to wait another year for the most touted tight end to commit to the program in recent history. Francis Howell’s Brett Norfleet, ranked the nation’s 249th overall rookie for 2023 by Rivals.com, signed to Mizzou last November and will be United’s first tight four-star prospect since Smithville’s Andrew Jones in 2008.

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