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Albert Okwuegbunam on Another Level for Mizzou

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Missouri is 9-1 all-time when Albert Okwuegbunam scores a touchdown.

For all of the dominant players in the SEC, few have the combination of production and potential of Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The rising junior has 17 touchdown receptions in 22 career games and, to date, scores nearly one-fourth of the time he catches the football. Okwuegbunam, now with experience to add to a resume that already features prototypical size and rare athleticism, turned down the NFL for what he hopes will be a banner season with the Tigers.

A pre-season All-American, Okwuegbunam enters this fall heralded -- and hungry. 

Suffering a year-ending injury in Missouri's win at Florida, Okwuegbunam, for all of his past successes, was seemingly at another level before going down. Okwuegbunam, already with a touchdown in Gainesville, was just a few weeks removed from a 159-yard, three-score outburst against Memphis, a performance which earned him national headlines. Missing the final four games of the season halted notable momentum for Okwuegbunam, with misfortunate, more than any defender, the lone foe capable of slowing him down. 

Now healthy, Okwuegbunam is more than ready for his formal reintroduction. Drew Lock to Clemson-transfer Kelly Bryant, Okwuegbunam will continue to be a standout option for an accomplished, high-profile passer. Bryant has quite the resume and will almost certainly add to Okwuegbunam's. Missouri's proven and prolific tight end will pick back up with multiple receptions in a dozen straight games going back to the end of his freshman year, a full regular season's worth of totals. In that span, Okwuegbunam has 57 catches for 688 yards and ten touchdowns, all while playing in college football's toughest conference.  

Okwuegbunam, before ever taking an upperclassman snap, has five multi-score games, a pair of 100-yard league outings and a nine-grab performance against the defending conference champions. Fittingly, his second-ever catch went 27 yards for a touchdown. Before this season ever starts, Okwuegbunam has proven to be one of the premier players in the game, regardless of position. Southern Pigskin's Jim Johnson ranks Okwuegbunam as the 7th-best player in the SEC for 2019.

Furthermore, in Johnson's OAYP positional rankings metric, Okwuegbunam ranked as the premier tight end in the SEC by a wide margin; his formula score was well over twice that of Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney, a talented player who is understandably earning All-American attention this summer. For point of reference, Okwuegbunam joins Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas as the only player whose OAYP tally was at least 1.1 points higher than the next highest-rated qualifier.  

At 6'5'', 255 pounds, Okwuegbunam has long had a professional frame. His physical abilities also fit the mold. Okwuegbunam, a projected first round NFL Draft pick for 2020, both looks the part and plays it, too. He, gracefully sprinting the field and effortlessly making acrobatic grabs, is the modern-day status quo. 

Missouri is 9-1 all-time when Okwuegbunam scores a touchdown. Arguably the centerpiece of what will be yet another dynamic offense for the Tigers, the star tight end returns with even more to prove.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports