The NCAA limits the number of coaches any school can have. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was afraid his Tigers were about to exceed that limit by adding Sean Coffey to his staff.
"That was my biggest concern that he was just gonna help us coach," Pinkel said. "I would just assign him to a couple receivers opposite side of where coach Hill is because he knows the offense so well and he's such a good guy."
Article Continues Below
Not that Coffey technically would have counted as a coach or put Missouri in violation of any rule. But the possibility that Coffey was going to be out of action for his senior season once seemed very real. The wideout from Cleveland caught his fourth pass of the first half in the season-opener against Arkansas State and took a hit. He fumbled the ball and landed on his left shoulder, separating not only the ball, but the shoulder as well. Coffey missed the remainder of the opener as well as Missouri's games against New Mexico and Troy. Now, he is set to return to the lineup for Mizzou's Big 12 opener against Texas this Saturday.
"He just worked hard and got back in so he's ready to go," Pinkel said, confirming that Coffey would play.
"My shoulder's not 100 percent, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that," Coffey said on Monday. "Who doesn't play with sores and pains and things like that? It's safe enough for me to play now. It was smart to hold out those weeks and use the bye week to my advantage."
Coffey said he would estimate his shoulder at "80 to 85 percent." But he said it won't hold him back from doing anything.
"I play it regular. Put an ACE bandage on it and let's go," Coffey said. "My game's not gonna change. If somebody's out there on the left side and I feel I can go, I'm gonna stiffarm them and keep going. I'm going to play everything just like it's been before, just like I'm 100 percent. In my mind, I'm 100 percent."
Even 80 percent of Coffey should be a jolt to a passing offense that has suffered in his absence. Before getting hurt, Coffey was averaging 21 yards per catch. Fellow wideout William Franklin averaged nearly 15 yards per reception in the opener. Since then, the sophomore has 12 catches for just 59 yards. No Tiger wideout is averaging ten yards per catch in Coffey's absence.
"It takes a lot of pressure off the other receivers, especially the ones that haven't played too much," Franklin said. "It's great to have him back, another big play aspect out there on the field besides Brad and our great backs and tight ends and receivers."
In last season's Big 12 opener, Coffey caught an innocent out pattern against Colorado. He turned it into a 51-yard touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 17-9 Tiger win.
"Obviously, he's always been a real good deep ball receiver," said Pinkel. "That's what Sean likes to do. It's just nice to have the experience back and it's nice for me because he's worked so hard."
Everyone seems happier to have Coffey wearing shoulder pads instead of a headset.
"I didn't know if we were going to get him back at all," Pinkel admitted. "I just hope he stays healthy. I hope he can have a great game and finish the season because he'll really without question help us. There's no question about that."
PowerMizzou.com will be your most comprehensive source for coverage of the Tigers throughout the 2005 season. Each Monday, we will provide you with a transcript of coach Pinkel's press conference in its entirety. Throughout the week, we will provide audio interviews, feature stories and analysis of the upcoming game. During the game, we will provide Instant Analysis of the contest and will continue with complete post-game coverage throughout the weekend. To talk about it with other Tiger fans, visit our premium forum, The Tigers' Lair.