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Projecting Missouri’s Week 1 depth chart

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Which players will be the first to take the field on the road in Morgantown, WV?

Mississippi State v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

With the Missouri Tigers’ season opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers exactly one week away, let’s take a look at who projects to be on the Tiger two-deep on September 3rd.

Offense
Position # Player Year | # Player Year
Wide Receiver 87 Eric Laurent (r)SR OR 15 Keyon Dilosa (r)SO
Wide Receiver 1 Chris Black (r)SR 9 Dimetrios Mason FR
Tight End 80 Sean Culkin SR 10 Jason Reese (r)SO
Wide Receiver 6 J'Mon Moore (r)JR 84 Emanuel Hall SO
Right Tackle 77 Paul Adams (r)SO 72 Kyle Mitchel SO
Right Guard 71 Kevin Pendleton (r)SO 69 AJ Harris (r)FR
Center 56 Samson Bailey (r)SO 54 Trystan Castillo FR
Left Guard 57 Alec Abeln (r)JR 78 Michael Stannard SR
Left Tackle 76 Tyler Howell JR 75 Tre'Vour Simms FR
Quarterback 3 Drew Lock SO OR 2 Marvin Zanders (r)SO
Running back 5 Alex Ross (r)SR 21 Ish Witter JR
Place Kicker 7 Tucker McCann FR 26 Corey Fatony SO
Defense
Position # Player Year | # Player Year
Defensive End 16 Marcell Frazier (r)JR OR 13 Spencer Williams (r)SO
Strong End 16 Charles Harris (r)JR 88 Nate Howard SO
Nose Guard 96 AJ Logan (r)JR OR 97 Josh Augusta SR
Defensive Tackle 95 Rickey Hatley (r)SR 79 Terry Beckner SO
Middle Linebacker 30 Michael Scherer (r)SR 47 Cale Garrett FR
Will Linebacker 34 Joey Burkett (r)JR 4 Brandon Lee (r)SO
Strong/Nickel Backer 25 Donavin Newsom (r)SR 24 Terez Hall SO
Boundary Corner 11 Aarion Penton SR 28 Logan Cheadle JR
Field Corner 2 TJ Warren (r)FR OR 1 Anthony Hines JR
Strong Safety 22 Anthony Sherrils (r)JR 3 Ronnell Perkins (r)FR
Free Safety 8 Thomas Wilson JR 7 Cam Hilton SO
Punter 26 Corey Fatony SO 7 Tucker McCann FR
Special Teams
Position # Player Year | # Player Year
Punt Returner 12 Johnathan Johnson SO OR 9 Dimetrios Mason FR
Kick Returner 7 Cam Hilton SO OR 14 Ray Wingo (r)SO
Kickoffs 7 Tucker McCann FR 26 Corey Fatony SO
Long Snapper 86 Jake Hurrell (r)SR

Obviously, some of this is speculation as information has been particularly sparse this off-season. The coaching staff has made a point of saying every position is open, all the way up to quarterback. Missouri’s coaching staff may have us on the edge of our seat every week to see who gets the start if certain guys aren’t performing or even if they just favor a particular matchup. My predictions in bold.

One thing is certain, both Drew Lock and Marvin Zanders will play this year, starting with West Virginia. We saw what an offense geared for two different quarterbacks looked like last year. The prospect of a two-quarterback system is unnerving since, as the old maxim goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.". Whether this becomes a platoon system, a special package system or a unique hybrid, Josh Huepel seems intent on maximizing the roster’s talent. I think Drew Lock starts vs West Virginia but Marvin Zanders gets 15 snaps, some coming with both on the field.

Alex Ross is set at starting running back but the battle for the #2 spot looks divided between junior Ish Witter and freshman Damarea Crockett with JUCO transfer Nate Strong waiting in the wings. I’ll go with Alex Ross and Ish Witter as 1-2 against WVU, but the staff also give Crockett less than six carries, burning his redshirt.

The only guaranteed pass-catchers are Chris Black and TE Sean Culkin, but a bevy of receivers, led by J’Mon Moore and Keyon Dilosa, will see the field. Multiple tight end packages could factor heavily into the offense so look for for Jason Reese, Kendall Blanton and maybe even a freshman to see the field at the same time. Give me Black, Culkin, Moore and Dilosa as starters next week, but Dimetrios Mason and Justin Smith will play.

The defensive side of the ball appears set except opposite Charles Harris at defensive end and Aarion Penton at cornerback. We could see several players rotate at linebacker and along the interior defensive line but that would be a continuation of previous trends. Look for the expected faces but also several freshman, including Tyrell Jacobs and Markell Utsey.

The biggest question remains the offensive line where depth remains a concern. Are the rumors that younger guys were held back from playing last year true? And does that mean a potentially higher ceiling for the entire group? I believe Kevin Pendleton and Paul Adams will anchor their positions for the next several years and if Samson Bailey is the answer at center and Tyler Howell is even serviceable at left tackle the unit looks strong and capable of growing with experience. I think we’ll see Tre’Vour Simms burn his redshirt vs West Virginia.

Finally, special team legs look set for the foreseeable future with Corey Fatony and Tucker McCann, both of whom can play multiple roles. The kick coverage and return units remain battles between experience and potential that will be under close scrutiny from Barry Odom. Both Johnathan Johnson and Dimetrios Mason will return a kick.

Missouri’s first game will be a fantastic test of Barry Odom’s mantra that toughness wins. How willing this staff is to shake up the depth chart will be revealed after the opening drive.