During the team portion of practice, University of Missouri placekicker Tucker McCann worked some two-minute drills recently on field three, which is the farthest of the Kadlec Athletic Fields from the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex.
It’s also the one with a set of narrowed field-goal uprights, which put a greater premium on kicking-game accuracy.
“We narrowed them for some sight-line training that we’re trying to do and those guys have done a good job,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said.
That was an area of profound struggle for Mizzou last season for McCann, and Odom, who coached special teams last season, accepted his share of the blame.
“Last year, I didn’t do a good job in a lot of areas, and that was one of them obviously,” Odom said. “That’s like the most elementary statement ever. We missed the extra point and my coaching point was, ‘Hey, make it between those two yellow uprights.’”
McCann, a 2016 graduate of O’Fallon High School, earned a scholarship to Missouri after exhibiting a pattern of consistency for the Panthers.
He connected on 74 of 79 extra points as a senior and hit 28 field goals, including a Illinois-record 60-yard bomb. Out of high school, McCann was ranked the No. 3 place kicker in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 4 by ESPN.
Saturday in the Tigers’ season opener against Missouri State, the sophomore kicker hit on a 35 yard field goal and put nine of 12 kick offs through the endzone for touchbacks.
But McCann struggled his freshman season at Mizzou, hitting just 6 of 12 attempts with a long of 46 yards. He temporarily lost his job after missing five in a row and he also was wide on four point-after-touchdown attempts.
Jonathan Rutledge remains the Tigers’ special teams analyst, but Odom bolstered his support staff with the addition of Dave Ungerer, a 29-year coaching veteran with extensive experience as a special teams coordinator.
“We’ve got Coach Rut and our new coach, Ungerer, who’s very technical and I am too, so I appreciate that,” McCann said.
In hindsight, he’s not surprised Odom was unable to diagnose last season’s woes — which included four missed, and inconsistent kickoffs — and offer workable solutions.
“He doesn’t know kicking,” McCann said. “He was a linebacker.”
Reinvigorated for 2017, McCann insists he’s put those struggles behind him.
“My confidence has rebounded and I feel better, because going through it made me twice as mentally strong,” McCann said. “I know what the bottom is and all I can do is go up. … I don’t want to go through that again.”
He also laughed when told Odom said the narrowed uprights were new this season.
“Those have always been there,” McCann said. “Andrew Baggett actually got them put in there, so they’ve been there for a while. It really helps.”
Baggett persuaded Mizzou’s staff to add the narrowed uprights during the team’s run of back-to-back SEC East championships in 2013 and 2014 — though McCann did allow that it was unusual to run through two-minute drills on that field during the team period.
News-Democrat staff contributed to this story.