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Missouri’s defense has gotten younger and better at the same time

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Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You know what’s awesome? When you undergo a youth movement and get better at the same time.

Barry Odom looked out on Faurot Field on Saturday and couldn’t help notice the common thread among four teammates as defensive ends Chris Turner and Tre Williams, defensive tackle Kobie Whiteside and outside linebacker Joshuah Bledsoe dragged down a Tennessee ball-carrier.

“Freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman,” Odom said Monday. “I’m pretty excited about that.”

Out of curiosity, I went back and compared Mizzou’s snaps counts from the Purdue game (the low point of the season) to Saturday’s win over Tennessee.

  • Against Purdue, freshmen and sophomores made up 26% of the snaps on the defensive line, 21% at linebacker/nickelback, and 36% in the defensive backfield. Seniors, meanwhile: 39% on the line, 27% at LB/NB, and 55% in the secondary.
  • Against Tennessee: freshmen and sophomores got 33% of the snaps on the defensive line, 35% at linebacker/nickel, and 49% in the defensive backfield. Seniors: 35% up front, 14% at linebacker/nickel, and 25% in the secondary.

Barry Odom and his coaches haven’t completely turned the defense over to the freshmen, but despite the stabilizing effects of having peaking senior Anthony Sherrils in the back, youngsters have stolen a lot of the seniors’ snaps. And after allowing 42 points per game over the first six, the Tigers have allowed 17 per game since. That’s a happy combination right there, especially in the secondary.

Walters said his players have gained experience throughout the year. They are a young and inexperienced group outside of Sherrils, but growing pains for players like Acy are wearing off.

“They’re starting to go through the natural maturation process in terms of gaining experience,” Walters said. “We’re starting to see the result of that.”

More Football Links:

  • Per PFF, Rountree was the SEC’s second-best back last week, and Sherrils was its second-best safety.

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