Andrew Jones has a tough task this season. Somehow, it will be expected of Jones to become a star at the tight end position this year for Mizzou, and it is not his fault. Missouri fans are used to stars lining up at tight end, with both Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker earning first-team All-American honors during the past two seasons. Coffman heading to the NFL this year means that this position will become one of the utmost importance.
As any good passing offense does, Missouri has relied heavily on the play of its superstar tight ends in recent years. In 2008, Coffman caught 90 passes for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns. The big man running across the middle was a large reason the Chase Daniel and the Missouri offense were able to put up such gaudy numbers. Now, Andrew Jones steps in, hoping to continue the recent history of strong tight ends.
In high school, Jones was a star. Scout.com had him ranked as a four-star tight end, the 9th best in the nation. He came to Missouri last year and was able to earn some valuable playing time as a true freshman. Andrew saw action in all 14 of the Tigers games, catching passes in 11 of them. All in all, he had 20 receptions for 146 yards in 2008.
What had really impressed some onlookers was his performance during the short stretch that Coffman missed due to a foot injury. He started two games during the month of November, including an impressive 7 catch, 61 yard outing at Iowa State.
During spring practices, Jones proved that he is very sure handed. His 6-5, 245 lb. frame will be a nice target for Blaine Gabbert to look for down the middle of the field. While his primary role in the Missouri will be to catch the ball, he also has the strength and power to stay on the line as an extra blocker, if needed.
While Andrew Jones will most likely be starting come September, It will be very important to follow the play of another true sophomore, Michael Egnew. Another big tight end (6-6, 215), Egnew will be the recipient of a huge increase in playing time. In 2008, Michael caught 4 passes for 22 yards, while playing in 13 games. With Chase Coffman and his 90 receptions taken out of the picture, it can be expected of Egnew to find himself on the field often. He will not see as much playing time as Jones does this year, however I would expect him to get more than Jones did last year.
As we continue down the depth chart, there is not much more experience. Jon Gissinger is a senior, who caught his first, and only, pass against Nevada in 2008. He has spent most of his time on special teams, however Coffman's departure may open up a little playing time on the offense in 2009. Pending an unfortunate injury or a lopsided scoreboard, I would not expect much playing time to go anywhere other than Jones or Egnew.
Overall, I believe that Missouri's tight ends will be much less of a factor this season than they have been in recent memory. Jones is a great player and may someday emerge into a star, however in 2009 I think that his purpose will be served more as a role player. Missourians have been spoiled by the play of their recent tight ends, but this year, do not expect another consensus All-American. The play of both Jones and Egnew will be key to the Tigers success in 2009, and they certainly can perform, but the position will no longer be a main focus like it was during the days of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman.
Position Preview: Tight End
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