Missouri star tight end out of AutoZone Liberty Bowl with shoulder injury

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – In less than 24 hours, the Cowboys will take the field against the Missouri Tigers to see who walks away the winner of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

While the Pokes will be trying to find a way to stop a future NFL quarterback, they won’t have to worry about one of Missouri’s biggest offensive stars.

On Sunday, Missouri head coach Barry Odom announced that tight end Albert Okwuegbunam would not be taking the field during Monday’s bowl game.

“Albert won’t be able to play. Sure impacts that position for us, but also it has for the last five weeks or so. Grateful for the guys and the way that they have stepped up in that position, from Kendall Blanton to Daniel Parker, Brendan Scales Scales, Sam Bailey – every one of them has stepped in and maybe played to a level that they’ve upped their game each week. I expect 3-4 of those guys to impact the game tomorrow in the their role in the way that we’re able to utilize them. We miss Albert, but also our team has adjusted to the idea and the principle that you never now when your opportunity is going to be called on, when you’re the next guy up. When you are, you better be ready to perform at a high level. Our guys are ready to go do that,” Odom said.

This season, Okwuegbunam recorded 43 receptions for 466 yards and six touchdowns. For the past three games, Okwuegbunam has been sidelined with a shoulder injury.

While his season appears to be over, many analysts are wondering if his college career is over for good.

There is speculation that Okwuegbunam will declare for the NFL Draft instead of coming back to Missouri.

“I don’t want to make a case for him staying versus going, that’s a decision he has to make. I know this, if it were my son, there are certain situations where you’d say, ‘Hey, it’d be wise for you to go, especially if you come back and they say you’re a first round pick.’ There are situations that if he were my son, I would advise him to stay. I think people make the decision solely on the amount of money they could make or pass up, and sometimes players lose sight of the intangible benefits of coming back. Your senior year of college is one of the most memorable years of your life as a football player. I know when you talk to Drew [Lock] and Paul [Adams], they’ll probably tell you that. It’s been a fun year. There’s just nothing like your senior year, competing with your teammates, there’s camaraderie, lasting relationships that you make that you can’t really put a price on,” said Missouri Offensive Coordinator Derek Dooley.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock says that he has spoken with Okwuegbunam about the decision to stay or enter the NFL Draft, but he isn’t sure what the tight end will decide.

“We’ve talked a little bit. I have a different approach about it with him. I know that when I was going through the process, I wanted to talk to my family, I wanted to talk to my coaches. I talked to Jack [Lowary]. Jack was kind of the only peer that I would really talk to about the whole situation, the whole process. Albert has kind of found that in me and Jack as well. We’re both on the same page with not leading him one way or another. I know when I was going through that process, I really didn’t want someone to leading me one way or another, especially if it was my peer. I think that’s the most adult decision from me and Jack at this time, to kind of let Albert to feel it out. If he had any questions about the process, of course I answered, but I’m trying not to let him feel me leaning one way or another for him and let him make the most true decision for himself,” said Lock.

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