By: Ethan Phillips
COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Missouri Tiger Football Team held their sixth practice of the spring Tuesday afternoon. With the team still getting acclimated to their new coaching and schemes, some players felt that playing football was no longer something that they wanted to pursue. News was released earlier today that redshirt junior running back Chase Abbington and senior offensive lineman Malik Cuellar both decided to step away from football.
When Coach Odom was asked about his thoughts on both players leaving the program he responded by saying, “I don’t want to lose anybody, because I feel like I’d like an opportunity to be able to mentor every guy we got on the team. When that is cut short its frustrating.”
Abbington played in only five games last season, rushing six times for 39 yards. The Tigers also have five other backs vying for position as a starter throughout the spring season, including Ish Witter, who was placed in the starter role after former senior running back Russell Hansbrough went down with an ankle injury, and incoming highly-touted transfer Nate Strong from Hinds Community College.
The loss of Malik Cuellar however leaves the Tigers with only eight healthy linemen on the roster before the Spring Game. When commenting on the depth at the position, Odom praised his staff.
“That offensive staff, we haven’t heard one thing about them wanting to change anything, and they’re working their tails off along with the guys out there working,” Odom said. “I’m proud of them because they’ve rolled up their sleeves and said let’s go get after it and get as good as we can get and that’s awesome.”
The loss of Cuellar comes just recently after offensive assistant line coach Greg Elarbee mentioned Cuellar would be moving inside to help out the interior of the line. When Odom was asked if the offensive line would become a priority with recruiting in the present and future, he said, “Yes, that would be a pretty fair assessment”.
As the Tigers continued practice, junior safety Anthony Sherrils went on to speak more about how he is transitioning into the leadership role in the secondary now with the loss of senior safeties Ian Simon and Cortland Browning.
“It’s my job and its something I have to do and I should do,” Sherrils said. “Last year I did it just by example, I led the secondary in tackles, so it’s just something I have to do.”
Sherrils led the secondary in total tackles with 64 and was third overall on the entire defense, trailing only current NFL prospect linebacker Kentrell Brothers and rising senior linebacker Michael Scherer.
With the team transitioning toward Spring Break and the upcoming Black and Gold Scrimmage game, the Tigers will have to search for a way to mend the holes caused by the recent exodus of both graduating seniors and retiring players. The Tigers’ Spring Game is scheduled for April 16 at 5 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.