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Mizzou notebook: Walters, several players miss game while in quarantine

Mizzou notebook: Walters, several players miss game while in quarantine

Missouri South Carolina Football

Missouri safety Martez Manuel (3) celebrates a sack of South Carolina quarterback Collin Hill (15) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina wasn’t the only team with a reshuffled coaching staff Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks played for the first time since the school fired head coach Will Muschamp last Sunday.

On the other sideline, in a far less dramatic and only temporary development, Missouri was without defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who was back home in quarantine. Walters was ruled a high-risk close contact to someone within the program who tested positive for COVID-19 through contact tracing, the team confirmed before Saturday’s game. Walters has not tested positive for COVID but missed nearly all of the last two weeks of practice.

Cornerbacks coach David Gibbs served as MU’s coordinator and coached from the sideline in Mizzou’s 17-10 victory. The veteran assistant has been a coordinator at four different FBS staffs, most recently at Texas Tech from 2015-18. Defensive analyst Grant O’Brien was elevated to defensive assistant in Walters’ absence.

Mizzou’s absences didn’t end there.

The Tigers had a long list of players unavailable, most of them in quarantine through contact tracing, including starting defensive tackle Markell Utsey and key backup cornerbacks Ish Burdine and Adam Sparks. Others who didn’t make the trip included receivers J.J. Hester and Boo Smith, backup quarterback Shawn Robinson, offensive guard Dylan Spencer and outside linebackers Sci Martin Jr. and Johnny Walker.

Spencer and Utsey were suspended by the SEC for the first half of MU’s next game for their role in the fight at Florida on Oct. 31, but after discussions with the league office this week, including commissioner Greg Sankey, the SEC allowed their suspensions to be served Saturday, even though neither was available for the game. Also, linebacker Chad Bailey’s half-game suspension for the fight will be pushed back to later in the season so he could be available for Saturday’s game, as ruled by the SEC.

Mizzou has 56 scholarship players here overall, including three who have been out with injuries and didn’t see the field Saturday: offensive guard Xavier Delgado, offensive tackle Larry Borom and nose tackle Kobie Whiteside.

Back in his hometown with a large gathering of family at the stadium, defensive end/outside linebacker Trajan Jeffcoat was held out of the game while in concussion protocol, leaving the Tigers with just 52 available scholarship players.

“That’s a I-AA roster,” Drinkwitz said. “Our guys are fighting and giving everything they’ve got.”

Rountree runs to record

Missouri running back Larry Rountree III struggled getting past the line of scrimmage through most of the first half, but his longest run made history. An 11-yard dash off the left side gave Rountree 19 yards for the night, just what he needed to pass former Tiger running back Zack Abron for second place on the school’s career rushing list.

Rountree began the season sixth on the list and made his surge with consecutive 100-yard games against Louisiana State and Kentucky. By halftime, his career total stood at 3,216 yards, second only to former Mizzou quarterback Brad Smith in team history.

Smith, the Tigers’ QB from 2002-05, has a safe lead for the all-time record with 4,289 career yards.

Without two regular starters along the offensive line, the Tigers rarely controlled the line of scrimmage and only averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. Rountree finished with 58 yards on 21 attempts.

Tigers land JUCO pledge

Mizzou picked up a much-needed defensive line commitment late Friday night from junior college prospect Realus George Jr. A former fullback at Miami, Fla., George took a detour to Independence, Kan., Community College, where he turned himself into a defensive tackle. George played two seasons at Miami, mostly on special teams both years.

He’s yet to visit Mizzou but plans to see campus next month and enroll at the semester break. With the junior college season canceled this fall, George hasn’t played since last year at Miami, where he weighed around 240 pounds, he said. He’s up to 295 and could reach 310 next year, he said.

“I’m not going to lie,” he said in a phone interview Saturday. “I’ve never had a problem gaining weight. My whole life I’ve had to lose weight, so now when I had to gain weight, it was easy. I just had to eat.”

Extra points

Freshman receiver Jay Maclin (Kirkwood) saw the field for the first time this season and produced his first reception, a 5-yard grab in the flat in the second quarter. … Without some key pieces on the defensive line, walk-on Cannon York made his first career start at defensive end. Freshman cornerback J.C. Carlies also made his first career start, in place of normal starter Jarvis Ware. With depth depleted at left guard, redshirt freshman Luke Griffin made his first career start.

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