COLUMBIA - Well before game day, Missouri punter Trey Barrow is getting plenty of competition.
After an inconsistent performance at No. 6 South Carolina, Barrow needs to beat out Christian Brinser for the starting nod Saturday at Central Florida.
Barrow averaged 46.7 yards on seven punts against the Gamecocks, but with a net of only 28.7 yards. He shanked his first effort, a 35-yarder, and several others had short hang times.
South Carolina's average starting position after Missouri punts was its 45, and three possessions began in Missouri territory.
Barrow, a senior, ranked ninth in the nation with a school-record 44.8-yard average last year. He also finished last season as the kicker, stepping in for injured Grant Ressel and going 7-for-9 on field goals and making all 23 extra-point kicks.
This year his net punting average is 33.5 yards, 103rd best in the nation.
Barrow is accustomed to the black-and-white world of a specialist. He insists there's no additional pressure this week.
"I'm no stranger to competition," he said. "It's going to be a fun week."
Barrow lost the kicking job to Andrew Baggett during preseason camp. Now he's in a fight to keep his job with a program he desperately wanted to be a part of growing up about an hour's drive away from school. He was a four-year letterman in football, basketball and baseball, starring at wide receiver in football, also started at defensive back, kicker and punter for Moberly High School.
When Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost offered a scholarship midway through Barrow's senior year, it was an easy decision.
"I've always liked punting and kicking," he said. "When Mizzou told me I could come here to kick - I've been a Mizzou fan my whole life, I love this place - I just jumped on the opportunity."
Barrow was on the practice squad for two years before handling kickoffs in 2010. That year, coaches told him to concentrate on punting instead of field goals after Ressel earned first team All-American honors in 2009 after making 26-of-27 field goals and all 39 extra point attempts.
"It was a big change, not doing a lot of stuff at practice, just punting," Barrow said. "Before I was running routes and playing defense, and I didn't get to spend a lot of time with the art of kicking, really.
"I think it's helped a lot having all that extra time to work on the form, to work on how you hit the ball."
When Missouri struggles on offense, as it did while producing just 255 yards at South Carolina, problems elsewhere are magnified.
"He switches the field position," receiver T.J. Moe said. "Trey, every once in a while, when he gets ahold of one, he can kick it 80 yards. Certainly, when we're down there at the 1-yard line, that's what we want him to do."
Punters coach Andy Hill informed Barrow he would be competing to save his job. He's co-No. 1 on the depth chart with Brinser, a redshirt sophomore.
"Overall, he's punting the ball pretty good in practice, and I just want to make sure the way you do things in practice, in his case, is what you put on the field on Saturday," Hill said. "I told him that competition should make you consistent and be able to make you focus better."
Whatever happens this week or the rest of this season, Barrow won't be ready to quit. He wants to kick professionally.
"I'm not ready to give up football yet," he said. "I love playing, and that's what I'm going to do. I've been playing with teams since seventh grade. I've loved it. I love it."