By: Nate Smith
Following the dismissal of Head Coach Barry Odom on Saturday morning, Mizzou fans once again woke up to big news on Sunday morning. Another big name will be departing from the football program, this time in the form of star lineman Jordan Elliott. The Tigers defensive tackle announced on his Twitter feed that he will forego his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. “It has been an amazing three years at Missouri. I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity, my family for supporting me and guiding me, my teammates for continuously pushing me and holding me accountable, Coach Odom, Coach Haley and the staff for molding me and teaching me lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Thank you all for helping me grow as a man and as a player. I am ready for the next chapter in my life and will be declaring for the NFL Draft, foregoing my final season of eligibility.”
Elliott’s decision to enter the upcoming NFL Draft was expected but nonetheless, it leaves a large void for the Missouri defense to fill. The junior quickly became a fan favorite after transferring from the University of Texas in 2017. Elliott made his presence felt in a variety of ways this season, racking up 44 tackles, including 8.5 for loss.
In 2019, Elliott was in on 12 combined sacks and finished with an impressive 33 total pressures, and 21 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Despite often commanding double teams, Elliott’s performance was elite enough to earn him a 91.1 run-defense grade and 90.7 pass-rush grade from PFF. Elliott was the only interior defensive lineman in the country to receive 90.0-plus grades in each category.
In what will now be known as Elliott’s final home game—against Tennessee—the 6’4” 315 pounder made a key play, blocking a second-quarter field goal attempt by the Volunteers. Missouri fans had come to expect game-changing moments and dominant performances from Elliott, so it should also come as no shock that he also closed out his college career by being named a Pro Football Focus 1st Team All-American. Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton also received recognition from PFF, as a 3rd Team All-American selection. Bolton will once again play a big role for the Tigers’ defense next season, as they aim to make up for the loss of Jordan Elliott. Early projections have Elliott pegged as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
Tigers Tight End ‘Albert O’ Also Going Pro
As to not be outdone by the previous two mornings, Monday morning came with breaking news of its own, as star tight end Albert Okwuegbunam announced that he will also enter the NFL Draft. As this article was set to be published, Okwuegbunam’s official announcement came down, with the junior saying that he will forgo his final season of eligibility as a Tiger.
Like Jordan Elliott, ‘Albert O’ issued a heart-felt message for Missouri fans on social media. “I’m beyond thankful for my experiences at this outstanding University. I’ve learned so much about the game of football and life over these past 4 years. Through trial and triumph these experiences undoubtedly molded me into the player/man I am today. I am extremely thankful for all my coaches throughout my career so far and their everlasting impact on and off the field. But most importantly, I am thankful for my brothers and the extremely tight bonds I’ve formed over these years. Through the ups and downs we’ve always stayed solid and supported each other when at times it felt no one else was and I can’t thoroughly express the gratitude I’ll always have for that. Ever since the first time I put on a helmet and shoulder pads, playing in the NFL has been my dream. God-willing I’ve been blessed with this opportunity and I have decided to embark on that journey now. I will forgo my last year of eligibility and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.”
Okwuegbunam exits Missouri as the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns per reception ratio, finding the end zone once per every 4.3 catches. The star tight end was also tabbed as an Associated Press Midseason 1st Team All-American team earlier this year. Despite being forced to miss time over the final stretch of this season, Okwuegbunam will also finish his Missouri career as the Tigers’ record holder for the most games (6) with multiple receiving touchdowns.
It is tough to forecast what round the Missouri tight end will be drafted, but with NFL teams taking an increased liking as of late to athletic pass-catching tight ends, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Okwuegbunam drafted in the early to middle rounds. Okwuegbunam joins Elliott, quarterback Kelly Bryant, linebacker Cale Garrett, and wide receiver Jonathan Nance as several big names that the Tigers will have to replace in the coming season. Okwuegbunam rounded out his comments on social media by saying “I’m excited for what the future holds but will always be thankful to Missouri.”