Notebook: Heupel’s departure, Tigers receive All-SEC nods headline Missouri football news

The team will play the Texas Longhorns in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27.

MU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel speaks with the media following practice on Aug. 23.

While Missouri’s regular season has come to a close, the news around the team has been almost nonstop since the Tigers picked up their seventh win of the season on Nov. 24 against Arkansas.

While the big story is Missouri’s Dec. 27 date with the Texas Longhorns at the Texas Bowl in Houston, there’s plenty of other news to go around involving Tiger football.

Here’s a roundup of everything that’s happened for the team since the regular season ended:

Heupel departs for UCF

Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has been named the University of Central Florida’s head football coach, UCF announced Tuesday.

Heupel was Missouri’s offensive coordinator for two seasons and had success in the role for the Tigers. Missouri was 124th in the country in offense in 2015 but improved to 13th in Heupel’s first season and seventh this season. The Tigers are averaging 39.3 points per game, including 46.25 points per game since the team’s bye week.

Previously serving as Utah State and Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, Heupel made a name for himself in 2000 when he led Oklahoma to a national championship and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He takes over a UCF team that finished 12-0 this season.

Heupel’s departure is sure to increase speculation that junior quarterback Drew Lock will depart for the NFL at the end of this season. Andy Lock, Drew’s father, told the Kansas City Star on Tuesday that his son will make his decision about entering the draft after Missouri’s bowl game. However, he said Heupel’s departure is unlikely to be a major factor on whether or not his son returns to school.

“Frankly, this doesn’t really affect Drew’s decision much at all,” Andy Lock said to The Star. “I feel like Drew is going to be successful whatever route he takes and whoever he plays for.”

Beckner Jr. announces his return

Speculation about whether junior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. would declare for the 2018 NFL draft has existed since fall camp. Many fans thought that Beckner Jr., a former five-star recruit who’s enjoyed a second-half surge for the Tigers this season, would forego his senior year for a shot at NFL glory.

Beckner Jr. has other plans, however. He’ll return to Columbia for his senior season and put the NFL draft off for another year, the team announced in a press release on Dec. 1.

In his final season with the Tigers, Beckner Jr. said he wants to maintain a leadership role on the team and carry over momentum from this season.

“We have a chance to do something really special and keep momentum going into next year, and I want to be part of that and help lead this team in the right direction,” Beckner Jr. said in the press release. “I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be a Tiger and I want to do everything I can to help us do big things.”

Head coach Barry Odom said he and his staff were ecstatic to have Beckner Jr. back next season.

“He certainly did have an opportunity to move on, but he and his family weighed all of the factors and we're grateful for the faith they have in us as a coaching staff to help him become the best he can be,” Odom said in the press release.

Beckner Jr. has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 12 games this season. It is his first season as a Tiger that has not been cut short due to a knee injury.

Four Tigers named to Associated Press’ All-SEC team

The Associated Press named its All-Southeastern Conference team Monday, and four Tigers received honors.

Lock was named All-SEC First Team quarterback. Senior defensive end Marcell Frazier, redshirt senior wideout J’Mon Moore and redshirt freshman tight end Albert Okwuegbunam earned All-SEC Second Team honors.

Lock, who leads the nation in passing touchdowns with 43, is Missouri’s first quarterback to earn first team all-conference honors since Chase Daniel did so in the Big 12 in 2007. He now holds the school record for most touchdown passes in a single season and most career games of 400 or more yards passing. He has five such games, and his most recent came against Arkansas on Nov. 27.

Frazier’s nod came after posting a career-best season. A potential NFL prospect, Frazier has 13.5 tackles for loss, a number that leads the SEC, and seven sacks this season. His inclusion on the All-SEC team marks the fifth consecutive season a Missouri defensive lineman has been included on the team.

Moore earned All-SEC second-team honors for the second season in a row and is the second Missouri receiver to record two 1,000 yards receiving seasons. He finished the regular season second in the SEC in yards receiving with 1,017 and third in touchdown catches with 10.

Okwuegbunam’s breakout season earned him the first all-conference nod of his career. A three-star recruit in high school, Okwuegbunam was relatively unheralded coming into the season but became one of Lock’s favorite targets as the season progressed. He finished first amongst all tight ends in the country in touchdown receptions with 11 and led all freshmen in the category, as well. Ten of his 11 touchdown receptions came in the final eight games of the season.

Moore accepts bid to Reese’s Senior Bowl

In addition to being named a Second Team All-SEC player, Moore accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 27, 2018, in Mobile, Alabama.

Moore is projected to be a late-round pick or undrafted free agent in the 2018 NFL draft, according to nfldraftscout.com. The game will give him an opportunity to showcase his talents in front of NFL scouts and personnel, both in the week of practice leading up to the game and the game itself.

Moore’s 2,412 career receiving yards and 21 career touchdown receptions put him at fourth in Mizzou history for both categories. His nine career 100-yard receiving games is also fourth in program history. If he catches two touchdown passes in the Texas Bowl, he will move into sole possession of second all-time in Mizzou history in touchdown receptions.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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