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What challenges can Delaware State offer Missouri on Saturday?

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NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: Missouri is going to beat Delaware State. It’s probably going to be a blowout by halftime. I say that not because I have incredible confidence in the Tigers (though my confidence is certainly growing); I say it because the Hornets are really, really bad.

DSU went 3-20 in 2014-15 and has begun 2016 0-2 with losses to Delaware and Monmouth by a combined 90-34. The transitive property isn’t nearly as useful as we want to think it is, but follow this trail:

Monmouth 34, DSU 20
Kent State 27, Monmouth 7
NC A&T 39, Kent State 36
Tulsa 58, NC A&T 21
Ohio State 48, Tulsa 3

Bad.

DSU currently ranks 241st out of 253 teams in the Sagarin ratings. Thus far teams within 10 spots ahead of them have suffered the following results vs. FBS competition:

Kansas 55, #231 Rhode Island 6
UTSA 26, #232 Alabama State 13
Miami 70, #233 FAMU 3
UNLV 63, #235 Jackson State 13
Troy 57, #237 Austin Peay 17
Marshall 62, #239 Morgan State 0
Maryland 52, #240 Howard 13
Rutgers 52, #240 Howard 14

Second-year head coach Kenny Carter is a former Charlie Strong assistant at Louisville and Urban Meyer assistant at Florida. He’s got a pretty exciting pedigree, and early indications are that he is upgrading DSU’s recruiting. But he’s got a super-young team this year, one that probably isn’t going to be ready for much of a step forward.

In previewing this game, then, we’re not going to look for the aspects that might flip the result in one way or another. Instead, we’re simply going to look at the ways in which Mizzou might be able test itself.

Offense

Backfield

QB

  • Daniel Epperson (6’1, 200, Jr.) — 16-for-33, 195 yards, 3 TD, 5 INT
  • Kobie Lain (6’2, 215, So.) — 8-for-14, 51 yards
  • Gilbert Rivera (6’3, 230, Sr.)

DSU’s dealt with quite a bit of QB uncertainty of late. Daniel Epperson is a JUCO transfer who’s started one game, Kobie Lain is a sophomore who started the other, and Gil Rivera was last year’s leading passer. Thus far, Epperson has shown the most upside, averaging 12.2 yards per completion to Lain’s 6.4, but he’s also thrown five interceptions. And combined, DSU is allowing an 11 percent sack rate. Against Delaware and Monmouth.

RB

  • Brycen Alleyne (5’7, 170, So.) -- 17 carries, 121 yards (7.1), 1 TD; 7 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD
  • Mike Waters (5’10, 190, Fr.) — 10 carries, 48 yards (4.8); 3 catches, 17 yards

The run game has actually worked pretty well so far. I would be surprised if either Brycen Alleyne or Mike Waters gets going to any major degree in Columbia, but Alleyne has been a pretty effective, versatile weapon so far, and Waters is one of the few DSU players listed in the 247Sports database (he was a mid-two-star).

Receiving Corps

WR

  • Mason Rutherford (6’0, 180, Jr.) — 6 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD
  • Fatu Sua-Godinet (6’0, 180, Fr.) — 1 catch, 4 yards

WR

  • Aris Scott (6’2, 220, Sr.) — 3 catches, 50 yards
  • Michael Piersawl (6’2, 200, Jr.)

WR

  • Jerimiah Williams (6’2, 195, Jr.) — 2 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD
  • Taronn Selby (5’10, 170, So.)

TE

  • Dominic Floyd (6’2, 220, So.) — 1 catch, 3 yards
  • Isiah Williams (6’3, 240, Fr.) — 1 catch, 5 yards

Alleyne is DSU’s go-to guy, but the Hornets do boast a couple of interesting receivers, too. Aris Scott caught 46 balls for 683 yards last season, and Mason Rutherford, Epperson’s JUCO teammate, is on pace for close to 500 yards so far this year.

Outside of Alleyne, the skill unit has pretty good size. Of the eight players listed above, seven are at least 6’0, and five are at least 195 pounds.

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Offensive Line

LT

  • Joshua Fala (6’7, 358, Fr.)
  • Lamont Bradford (6’4, 290, Jr.)

LG

  • Cade Pedro (6’5, 295, Fr.)
  • Ernest Sellers (6’2, 285, Fr.)

C

  • Ernest Mengoni (6’3, 300, Sr.)
  • Charles Wallace (6’3, 300, So.)

RG

  • Chuka Ezeuzoh (6’4, 290, So.)
  • Kyle Bailey (6’6, 315, Fr.)

RT

  • Peter Borum (6’6, 355, Jr.)
  • Kaiden Crawford (6’4, 290, Fr.)

Thus far, DSU’s line has struggled in pass protection but has helped to open some holes in the run game. One has to assume size is part of the reason for that. I’m not guessing there is a ton of athleticism here (especially if the sack rates are any indication), but the 10 players listed above average 6’4, 308. That’s nearly your average SEC line. Hell, Mizzou only averages 6’5, 318 on its two-deep. Tackles Peter Borum and Joshua Fala are particularly enormous.

Defense

Defensive Line

DT

  • Damon Atwater-Stephens (6’3, 280, Fr.) — 4.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL
  • Robert Jernigan (5’11, 265, RSFr.) — 1.0 tackles

NT

  • Dominique Drewery (6’2, 300, Fr.) — 7.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL (1 sack)
  • Jacob Jones (6’4, 300, So.) — 2.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL

DT

  • Javon Barnes (6’2, 300, So.) — 9.0 tackles, 1 QBH
  • Nick Nelson (6’4, 255, Sr.) — 2.0 tackles

DSU is missing its best player from last year; Gabe Sherrod racked up 25 tackles for loss in 2015 before taking the graduate transfer route to Michigan State. First-year defensive coordinator Gerard Wilcher is quite aggressive, and he’d have probably figured out some pretty fun things to do with Sherrod. Instead, he’s stuck with a line that’s lacking.

Again, size isn’t a major issue. You need big dudes if you’re going to attempt a 3-4 defense, and while only three of six players above are listed at 300+ pounds, four are at least 280, which isn’t bad for an FCS team.

Linebackers

OLB

  • Rashawn Barrett (6’0, 215, Sr.) — 9.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 PBU
  • Kameron Rogers (6’2, 210, Jr.) — 2.0 tackles, 1 FR, 1 blocked kick

MLB

  • Brian Cavicante (6’0, 220, Fr.) — 9.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL
  • Kyle Taylor (6’2, 230, So.) — 1.5 tackles

MLB

  • Malik Harris (6’0, 225, Jr.) — 14.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL
  • Ted Noble (6’0, 230, Jr.) — 4.0 tackles

OLB

  • Denzel Burgette (6’2, 200, So.) — 2.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL
  • Garfield Heslop (6’4, 220, Jr.) — 5.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 PBU

Wilcher does have some pretty exciting pieces in the back eight of the defense. Malik Harris and Rashawn Barrett combined for 23 TFLs last year, and freshman Brian Cavicante and junior Garfield Heslop are on pace for double digits this year. This unit lacks size but has had some occasional havoc moments.

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Secondary

CB

  • Kayjuan Selby (5’11, 175, So.) — 5.5 tackles
  • Issiah Small (6’2, 170, Fr.) — 1.0 tackles

CB

  • Gary Melton (5’10, 180, Sr.) — 10.0 tackles
  • Marlon Carter (6’0, 170, Fr.)

S

  • Xavier Wilcher (6’1, 180, Jr.) — 11.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL
  • Brock Nichols (6’0, 200, Fr.) — 1.5 tackles

S

  • Logan Wescott (6’1, 190, So.) — 17.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL
  • Jahad Neibauer (5’10, 180, Fr.) — 6.5 tackles, 1 PBU

Safeties Xavier Wilcher and Logan Wescott have combined for three TFLs so far, another hint of Wilcher’s intended aggressiveness. Unfortunately, this aggression hasn’t resulted in efficiency. Opponents have thus far completed 66 percent of their passes with zero picks.

Special Teams

K

  • Wisdom Nzidee (5’10, 180, Jr.) — 4-5 PAT, 0-1 FG under 40

P

  • Fidel Romo Martinez (6’1, 190, Fr.) — 9 punts, 41.3 average, 3 fair caught, 1 inside 20

KR

  • Brycen Alleyne (5’7, 170, So.) — 5 KR, 28.2 average

PR

  • Aris Scott (6’3, 225, Sr.)

Dear Tucker McCann: Kick touchbacks, please. Alleyne is dangerous.


Here are three ways Delaware State can test Mizzou for a little while:

  1. Size in the trenches. DSU’s got a lot of it, so this can serve as at least a little bit of a test when it comes to matching meat with meat. (Phrasing. Sorry.)
  2. Speed at the skill spots. Alleyne is bouncy, and Mason Rutherford and Jerimiah Williams are averaging 15.8 yards per catch so far. Limit DSU to maybe one gain of 20-plus yards, and you’ve accomplished a little something.
  3. Aggressiveness on defense. If Mizzou executes, the Tigers will score as many points as they want. But DSU is going to try to force mistakes and take advantage of them. An unfocused Mizzou offense could suffer at least a couple of turnovers.