October 21, 2009

The Forgotten Man

For years, there was only one criticism of the Missouri tight ends: They weren't really tight ends. Turns out, that's true. In the Tigers' spread attack, there is virtually no difference between a player classified as a tight end and one listed as a wideout.

"There's little wrinkles," said Andrew Jones, who is technically listed as Missouri's starting tight end. "Sometimes I'm down on the line in a three-point or I'm going in motion to block, other stuff like that. We do have different plays...It's pretty much the same, we just have a few wrinkles."

And while Jones is listed as the tight end, he hasn't been on the field nearly as much as the players listed at that position in past seasons. He said against Iowa State last season, with Chase Coffman injured, he got 50 or 60 snaps. Against Oklahoma State, Jones said the number was about twenty.

"The great thing about our offense is we can put any receiver we want to go at any different spot," Gary Pinkel said. "What we do is we look at, for the play called, the best four players to have on the field at that particular time. Andrew Jones is doing a good job when he's in there. So is Beau Brinkley. But we also can get any combination that we want out there."

"In some cases, actually, Danario (Alexander) plays the Y position for us, which is the position Ruck and Coffman played so well," offensive coordinator David Yost said. "Using him in that position, I think, has worked in some cases. His yards and the plays he's making are really good. We can move guys around, but we've used him in that position somewhat more than we had previously. And, really, that's due to the fact of who we had previously."

Alexander, whether he's a tight end or a wideout, leads Missouri with 44 catches for 627 yards in the season's first six games. He is on pace, with a bowl game, to eclipse Jeremy Maclin's single-season Missouri record of 1,260 receiving yards. In fact, Alexander has a chance to eclipse the numbers posted by the tight end position as a whole in any season in Tiger history. In 2007, Rucker and Coffman combined to catch 136 passes for 1,367 yards. Playing the same position, Alexander is certain to eclipse the best individual season by either of the all-Americans (Coffman's 987 yards in 2008) and could post more yards than the two combined did in 2007.

All of which does not lessen the frustration felt by Jones, a sophomore who has just seven catches for 39 yards and has not had a reception in either of Missouri's two conference games.

"There's opportunities out there and whenever I get an opportunity, I'm just going to have to make the most of it so they're gonna want to give it to me more often," Jones said. "Just try to build off what I was starting to do at the end of last season."

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