MU's Coffman hurdles the competition

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Associated Press file Missouri tight end Chase Coffman tried to clear two Oklahoma defenders during a game last season. Coffman, a senior, is the school's career leader for touchdown receptions with 21.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- At 6 foot 6 and 245 pounds, Missouri's tight end does not fit the image of a player whose signature move is hurdling opponents.

Chase Coffman seems to pull it off on a weekly basis. The senior had nine receptions for a career-best 120 yards and a touchdown in the No. 6 Tigers' opening 52-42 victory over Illinois, twice leapfrogging confused opponents.

"It usually shuts them up," Coffman said. "They don't really say anything to me until they get a tackle on me or something."

Style has nothing to do with Coffman's reasoning for the move avoiding tacklers, a move he unveiled as a freshman at Oklahoma State. The primary reason is preserving his knees from defenders looking to cut him down to size.

"Guys kept going for my legs, so I jumped over him," Coffman said. "Now, whenever someone goes low, I just go over him."

It's also in the genes. Coffman's father Paul did his share of hurdling as a former All-Pro tight end for the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. Watching old game footage from his dad's career, Coffman was struck by the father-son similarities.

Coffman's most impressive leap might have been last season at Colorado en route to the end zone. Against Illinois, after dodging a linebacker, he reversed field and cleared defensive back Bo Flowers.

"They're good replay shots," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's such a complete player, such a great competitor and a player who plays at his best all the time."

Coffman has a school-record 21 career touchdown catches. He's had no trouble hanging onto the ball despite a broken right pinky held together with three pins.

Coffman was among the players who benefited from the double-teaming on wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was held to four catches for 31 yards against Illinois. Tommy Saunders had six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns and Jared Perry had five receptions for 92 yards.

"The sky's the limit with him," quarterback Chase Daniel said of Coffman. "If Jeremy gets double-and triple-teamed, who's going to cover Coffman?"

Maclin set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards last year and totaled 234 yards against Illinois with a 99-yard kickoff return and 45-yard punt return. He's just as amazed by what Coffman can do in the open field.

"He's one of the most athletic tight ends I have ever seen, and he's just a joy to watch," Maclin said. "He just does ridiculous things when he has the ball in his hands. It's fun to see a guy his size doing things like that."

Now that All-American Martin Rucker is gone, Coffman is the primary tight end for the first time. He's 38 receptions shy of Rucker's career record.

"Whatever the team needs me to do, whether it's catch a pass or set up blocks for guys like Jeremy Maclin and others, I'll do it," he said.

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