COLUMBIA — Missouri head coach Barry Odom confirmed Tuesday senior middle linebacker Cale Garrett, who is out indefinitely with a torn pectoral tendon, played the entire second quarter Saturday with the injury, when he recorded both of his interceptions and his third defensive score of the season.
He didn't let on it might be serious until halftime, when his day was likely close to done anyway, with the Tigers leading 42-7 against Troy.
"He didn't think it was obviously as serious as it was," Odom said. "And that probably, more than anything, speaks on the volume of mental and physical toughness that he carries himself with.
"He kind of waited until we had a break until he got it checked out. By definition, there's a lot of things you can describe Cale as, and kind of in a nutshell that's just the way he's approached his opportunities he's had to be a student-athlete here at Mizzou."
Odom and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters both said Tuesday missing Garrett in the middle of the defense will not change how Missouri plays defense. The Tigers (4-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) host Mississippi (3-3, 2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
"Schematically, the way we call it, we're not going to change much," Odom said. "Ten guys doing their job, and then now, whoever's in that role, they've got a job to do, too. I know that our guys hate it, obviously, that the injury happened, but we also know nobody around in our conference is feeling sorry for us. And we better get to work."
In Garrett's place, 6-foot-2 sophomore Cameron Wilkins was listed as starter at middle linebacker on this week's depth chart. Wilkins, who had a fumble recovery against Troy on special teams that Adam Sparks knocked loose, played most of the snaps at middle linebacker in the second half against the Trojans, and finished tied for the team-high with five tackles.
The expectation for Wilkins and his backup, Chad Bailey, is not to do everything Garrett did — Garrett was playing like an All-American — but to tackle well and make the reads asked of a middle linebacker.
"Y'all saw his stats. Cale's an amazing player," Wilkins said. "He's just a great guy overall. There's some big shoes (to fill), but I think everybody plays differently, and I can fill it in my own way."
Wilkins has 17 tackles this season, and did not record a tackle in 11 games as a true freshman. Bailey is a redshirt freshman who played in three games last season. Jamal Brooks, who is currently listed as weakside linebacker Nick Bolton's backup, could also play at middle linebacker.
"Luckily we've got great guys around Cam or Jamal or whoever is going to be out there," Walters said, "and I'm excited to watch him play. Cam is a very talented young man. He's, from a physical standpoint, what you want in a SEC linebacker. He's played really good ball through spring, fall and this season. There's no time like the present, his legacy starts now, and we're looking forward to watching him mature and play good for us."
Garrett had surgery Tuesday morning, and Odom said team physician Dr. Patrick Smith told him it went "perfect." Odom also said a medical redshirt would be difficult to try to get, but he said it was something the program would look into if Garrett and his family wanted to try.
Missouri's defense has arguably been its strongest unit this season, outscoring opponents 35-31 on its own in the last four games and giving up a total of 31 points at home after conceding 37 to Wyoming in the season opener.
The Tigers have allowed 7.75 points per game in wins, and their overall 13.6 points per game is 10th nationally behind Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State, Florida, Oregon, Georgia, San Diego State and Clemson. Missouri's opponents have just nine red zone possessions all season, tied for second-best nationally and tied for first in the SEC.
Making up for the loss of Garrett is almost impossible, but the way the rest of the defense has been playing around him should make it a little easier on Wilkins or whoever else is getting his snaps.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Kelly Bryant wore a left knee brace during Tuesday's practice but was otherwise unhampered going through warmups and drills and is expected to start against the Rebels. It's his second injury scare of his short Missouri career, after he slipped on the turf during fall camp and tweaked his hamstring.
"I just wanted to make sure everything was fine, didn't really know what was going on with it, so that's why we went back inside and got an MRI, and just made sure it wasn't nothing too serious," Bryant said.
Like the hamstring scare, he called the way he fell back and bent his knee awkwardly "a weird feeling" but said other than getting used to playing with the brace he felt about 90 percent.
"I've just been testing out the brace, seeing how I move in it," Bryant said. "But I feel good. Feel like I'll be ready to play this Saturday, just making sure that I'm on top of it, and doing extra rehab and treatment on it."
The third of Missouri's significant injuries against the Trojans was defensive back and punt returner Richaud Floyd. Floyd left early in the game with a hamstring injury and later came back out on the sideline in crutches. He was listed as doubtful for this week, and Odom called his injury, "day-to-day."
The Tigers also shuffled some spots on the offensive line. Case Cook and Larry Borom were both listed as starters on last week's depth chart, with Cook starting against Troy and Larry Borom starting at right tackle despite Hyrin White and Bobby Lawrence being listed as dual starters there.
This week, Borom's move to right tackle is official, with White as his backup, and redshirt freshman Mike Ruth backing up Cook at left guard. Cook was in a red no-contact jersey Tuesday, which Odom said was because of a sore back that would not hold Cook out of Saturday's game.
Missouri also moved true freshman wide receiver Maurice Massey off the depth chart. He had been behind Johnathan Nance, but after a promising fall camp, did not record a catch in three games against Wyoming, Southeast Missouri State and West Virginia. Dominic Gicinto moved from second at the slot receiver spot to second-string behind Nance.