We’re just a touch over one week away from Missouri Tiger football.
That’s right, y’all. This coming Saturday is the last you’ll have to go without football until November at the earliest and January at the latest. Adjust your grills accordingly.
Speaking of which! We rounded up some of our new writers to tackle all of Mizzou’s position groups, which we’ll be releasing until game day. Starting with defensive line — which David highlighted the importance of yesterday — we’re looking at who could have the biggest impact and why Terry Beckner’s return could make the difference between a bowl trip and a possible coaching search.
Once again, the line looks like it could be a strength for Mizzou’s defense. It just might produce another future star. Which previously unknown players do you think will make themselves household names by the end of this season?
Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: I think the player that will make a name for himself along the defensive line will be defensive end Tre Williams. The redshirt sophomore stepped his game up through the last half of 2017 and proved he could be a force. He saw time in 11 different games last season and totaled 20 tackles, including four for a loss and three sacks. He was also second on the team with five QB pressures, which is pretty impressive considering his limited time on the field.
Connor Snelson, Football Analyst: I think the next guy is Tre Williams at defensive end. Williams has all the intangibles needed to compete at an elite level in SEC play. The 6’5” 250 lb. sophomore earned himself a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team last season. This is the season that Williams makes the jump and really showcases his abilities as a versatile pass rusher and contain player. Being number one on the defensive end depth chart, I think Williams will see a big increase in playing time as opposed to last year. Plus, he’ll be playing alongside one of the best defensive tackles in the SEC, Terry Beckner Jr.
Josh Matejka, Editor: As Ryan and Connor pointed out, I think Williams is probably the next major star that we’ll see from this unit. However, I think he’s probably another year away from truly becoming a household name. Instead, I’m going with senior Walter Palmore, who was listed at starting defensive tackle alongside Beckner. Palmore registered 13 tackles in 10 appearances last year and came up with his biggest game against Tennessee, a game Missouri desperately needed to maintain its winning streak. He may not become a star in the same vein as Beckner, but the two could form a dynamic duo on the inside that a lot of teams would fear.
Terry Beckner Jr. surprised some people when he decided to spurn the NFL for one more season in Columbia. Assuming he stays healthy, how will his impact be felt on the rest of the defense?
Ryan Herrera: When Terry Beckner Jr. announced his return to Columbia, it immediately improved Missouri’s prospects on defense. Beckner is a game-changer, and he makes life easier for the rest of those alongside him. He was already projected to go fairly early in the draft before he put together a fully healthy season, and his breakout second half in 2017 only solidified him as a potential all-American with career-highs in tackles (38), tackles for a loss (11), sacks (7) and QB pressures (5) last year. Assuming a clean bill of health, he could pass those numbers and provide a huge boost to a Missouri team looking for a second-straight bowl appearance.
Connor Snelson: Beckner’s impact will be tremendous. I’m surprised he turned down NFL money, but he can earn himself a first-round grade this year by being a force. It’s got to show in the stat sheet, and I think it will. He excels at shedding blockers and making that crucial tackle for loss on third and short. He is also able to get after the passer, and is a versatile player that makes everyone around him better because of the attention he commands from offensive line coaches. This will provide plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Tre Williams and others, making the defensive line a true focal point of the team.
Josh Matejka: Beckner’s biggest impact, like most stars in any sport, is how he makes the rest of his team better. We’ve routinely seen it with great defensive linemen of Mizzou’s past: one great player can elevate the play of those around him. His ability to create havoc in any backfield forces linemen to take extra notice. And in college football, chaos in an opponent’s head can be just as useful as chaos on the field. With Beckner back at full health - fingers crossed so, so very tightly - Palmore, Williams, Chris Turner and all the other linemen should see increased chances to break into the backfield.