COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri football team lost two more players recently in position groups that don’t have much depth these days.
Abbington was a four-star recruit out of Fort Zumwalt South High School who had to detour through Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College before arriving in Columbia. He ran the ball six times for 39 yards last season, which made him the second-leading rusher among returning players.
“He’s decided to quit football,” Odom said. “I support him on trying to finish this semester academically, which he needs to do. It’s unfortunate that he decided this was not something he wanted to continue to pursue.”
Asked if Abbington was considering transferring elsewhere, Odom said the running back told the coach he was done with football.
“I don’t want to lose anybody because I feel like I’d like an opportunity to be able to mentor every guy that we’ve got on the roster,” Odom said. “When that is cut short for whatever reason, it’s frustrating. But our guys that are out here are working extremely hard and we’ll be creative enough to run the ball.”
Cuellar, who played at City College of San Francisco before transferring to Missouri, played in eight games during the 2015 and was competing for a spot along the offensive line this spring.
“Malik Cuellar came in today and decided football was not going to be in his future and he decided to quit the football team as well,” Odom said.
Cuellar’s leaving further depletes depth on a Tigers offensive line that recently lost Andy Bauer, a former four-star prospect who retired because of injuries.
So the new head coach and his revamped coaching staff now has to deal with losing some players before the midway point of their first spring football practice period.
“I’d like to keep every one of them out here,” Odom said. “This is an unbelievable place to be. We’re going to check classes, we’re going to work extremely hard in the weight room and we’re going to get as good as we can get on the football field and then socially we’re going to do everything we can to be positive in society. If you do all of those things, this is an unbelievable place to be.”
It’s possible the Tigers could add a late signee to their most recent recruiting class to help fill out the roster for this fall.
“We’re always going to be recruiting and that doesn’t ever stop,” Odom said. “Yes we’re recruiting for next year and two years down the road but we’re recruiting for Sept. 3 also. We’re going to keep being very aggressive with that.”
Asked if offensive line would be a target area for recruiting, Odom answered in the affirmative.
“Yes,” he said. “That would be a pretty fair assessment.”
The Tigers had their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, but it was not open to the public or reporters.
The takeaway, Odom said, was that he was glad his team wasn’t going to have a real game to play this Saturday.
“It looked like it was practice six of a spring,” he said. “There were some things offensively running the ball that were exciting to see. I think all three quarterbacks did some things on progression with the way that they have gone from practice one to practice five is exciting to see. Defensively, had some guys that hadn’t played a lot of snaps, live competition-wise, that stepped up. There’s going to be some competition at a lot of places, so that’s good, that’s healthy.”
CHANGES TO SPRING GAME?
Odom spoke Tuesday about what he’d like to do with the annual spring scrimmage, the Tigers’ Black & Gold Game, which is scheduled for April 16.
“I would like to line up and play as close to a game as you could play. Obviously I don’t want to do a lot of kicking, but we need to get some work in. There are some guys that haven’t played with the lights on that I want to see them in, scrimmage yes, but I want to see them in an arena with people in the stands and the lights on. I would love to do that.”
SPRING BREAK COMING SOON
Missouri has one more spring practice on Thursday, which is closed to the media, before getting time off for spring break.
Then the Tigers return to spring practices on April 5.
“We have an unbelievable opportunity to write our script and to do exactly what we want to do with this program,” Odom said. “We have an unbelievable opportunity to a person to get as good as we can get. We’re about at the midway point of spring practice and that’s when things start to work themselves out a little bit positionally but there’s also so much competition across the board that when we come back from spring break that the opportunity for those guys to compete seven more times or six more times in practice situations and get better on both sides of the ball and then in kicking.
“It’s awesome. It’s as good as it gets. We can go work, which we’re doing, and there’s not wins and losses tied to it and it’s one of the funnest times of the year because you can be a teacher and you can spend time, a little extra time, in the classroom teaching the guys. It’s pretty exciting.”