COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri senior Josh Augusta stands 6-foot-4 and weighs upward of 350 pounds. His teammates nicknamed him “The Juggernaut,” saying he never loses one-on-one drills in practice.
Since 2013, the defensive lineman has 66 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles in 42 games. He started 12 games in 2015, plugging up the middle for defense that piled up 106 tackles for loss, tying for sixth nationally.
This season, Augusta has a new role.
First-year offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has made numerous changes to a unit that finished last season second-to-last in offensive production. Among those changes is the addition of Augusta to the backfield as a fullback.
Through two games, Augusta has two carries for three yards. Both came in short-yardage scenarios and gained first downs. He could have more opportunities to carry the ball Saturday when Missouri (1-1) hosts No. 16 Georgia (2-0).
His first rushing attempt came in a 26-11 loss to West Virginia on Sept. 3. He converted on fourth-and-short, helping to set up a 42-yard field goal attempt. And last weekend during the 61-21 win against Eastern Michigan , there he was again on a fourth-and-short package. He blocked two defenders_one with each arm_opening a gap for running back Damarea Crockett’s first career touchdown, a 26-yard run.
Augusta has embraced his new role as a ball carrier, but especially welcomes the opportunity to block.
“The block was probably the best for me,” Augusta said when comparing Crockett’s touchdown run and his first-down carries. “Especially the freshman getting his first touchdown, it felt amazing to help him out.”
Augusta also indicated a willingness to play tight end, adding, “Just give me the ball.”
Quarterback Drew Lock feels more comfortable when Augusta is in the backfield.
“I definitely know we’re going to get that first down, believe it or not,” Lock said. “I was in there on that (touchdown) play and I was hoping that they weren’t going to call holding, because it looked like he was, but I watched it on film, and the guy was actually holding onto him to make it look like it was holding. When you block two guys on the same play and spring a touchdown run, I’d say you did your job.”
Running back Ish Witter had 13 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Michigan, and said he gave Crockett some sideline advice: “Look, just follow Josh, he’s going to open it up.”
“He made that run,” Witter said. “He opened it up, and it was a great play by Damarea too. He read it real quick and just got in the end zone.”
Augusta is eager to get into the end zone himself, and said he is planning a touchdown dance for whenever that play comes.
“It’s fun to see it work,” coach Barry Odom said of Augusta in the backfield. “Augusta was more happy about getting the block to spring the guy than Damarea was to score. That’s pretty cool. That’s putting the team first. I’m excited about what that group, that package, offensively, what that’s going to become.”
Online: AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/