Middle linebacker Cale Garrett, about to enter his third year at Missouri, has already had three position coaches as a Tiger. The first was DeMontie Cross, who oversaw inside linebackers in addition to his duties as a defensive coordinator from 2016-17. Coach Barry Odom — a former Missouri linebacker himself — took over Garrett’s group after dumping Cross from the staff two weeks into the 2017 season.

Odom relinquished the reins to the inside linebackers this offseason. In the spring, Garrett met his third and current position coach: the 56-year old Vernon Hargreaves Jr.

“Right off the bat,” Garrett said, “you know he has that O.G. card because he’s been around for a while.”

“O.G.”... rapper Ice-T invented the term, which at one time meant “original gangster,” in 1991. It’s been used so much in recent years that its definition has come to mean anyone or anything that is authentic, experienced or original. Hargreaves, whose salt-and-pepper goatee gives him a look of football distinction, is a mix of all three.

His coaching chops are extensive. Including Missouri, he’s made eight stops in his career, which started at Connecticut in 1985. The highlight was a seven-year run as the linebackers coach at Miami from 1998-2005 that included two BCS championship game appearances.

In his search for his own replacement as the Tigers’ inside linebackers coach, Odom said he “went into it knowing what I want with experience at that spot.”

Hargreaves fit the mold he had in mind. Then there was the matter of finding him. Odom had crossed paths with Hargreaves on the recruiting trail, hardly surprising since Hargreaves’ last stop was at Arkansas, where he coached all linebackers from 2015-16 and inside linebackers in 2017.

Odom also had a connection to Hargreaves through his brother, outside linebackers coach Brian Odom, who was on the staff with Hargreaves at Houston from 2013-14.

Missouri announced Hargreaves’ hiring on Dec. 14, two weeks before the Tigers’ game against Texas in the Texas Bowl. It was there in Houston that middle linebacker Jamal Brooks, then recovering from a knee injury, first met Hargreaves.

His first impression, like Garrett’s, was that Hargreaves knew his stuff.

“I kinda knew he had been a couple places. He has a lot of knowledge,” Brooks said.

But for all his experience, Hargreaves doesn’t have an old soul. At Missouri’s first day of camp last Friday, Hargreaves enthusiastically led a drill that required him to lay on his stomach and pop up onto his knees as the linebackers came by to hit a bag he held in his hands. He was excited, and his position group was, too.

“They always are,” Hargreaves said of the early days of camp. “It is what it is. After that, now let’s see what happens. When we come out two days from now after the excitement wears off, now we see where everything’s going.”

That type of work ethic isn’t a one-off. It’s not unusual to see coaches perspiring in the mid-morning August heat, but Hargreaves’ hard work is easily noticeable.

“Middle of practice yesterday,” Brooks said Friday, “Coach Hargreaves was in a full sweat, clothes drenched with us. He’s a fun coach. He’s a go-getter.”

Sunday morning was Hargreaves’ first opportunity to meet the media during fall camp. He ran into the semicircle of reporters, bouncing on his toes as he asked if he could do the interview with defensive line coach Brick Haley. He prodded the stoic Haley a few times before someone suggested the two “spread out a little bit.”

“Get over there,” Haley said jokingly to Hargreaves.

Turning to the reporters, Hargreaves itched for the first question.

“Hit me with it,” he said.

Brooks was asked for his favorite thought of Hargreaves from camp. He chuckled, then tried to compose himself. He broke out in harder laughter. He tried to compose himself again and doubled over in laughs.

Despite prodding, he refrained from detailing the memory in his mind.

“Just some of his gestures,” Brooks said coyly. “I’m going to put it that way, and the things he says and does are hilarious. … I don’t think it’s intentional for him. It’s just Coach Hargreaves.”

That’s coach Hargreaves, the O.G.

INJURY BUG: Missouri suffered its first serious injury setback this week with Messiah Swinson, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament during Tuesday's practice. A team spokesperson, who gave notice of the injury, did not have details on how it occurred.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound freshman tight end was likely to earn playing time this season, especially under the NCAA's new redshirt rule, which allows players to play in up to four games during a redshirt year.

Another freshman, linebacker Chad Bailey, had his left arm in a sling at Friday's practice due to a torn ligament in his thumb. He has had surgery on the hand, and Missouri anticipates it keeping him out for two weeks.

Senior linebacker Terez Hall missed Friday's practice with a hamstring pull. Ronnell Perkins and Jordan Elliott sat out Friday with knee strains. Johnathon Johnson did not participate because of illness. Odom said those ailments were minor and anticipated those four players to be available as soon as next week.

djones@columbiatribune.com