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Coming up with a Missouri SEC-era dream team, position by position

Can any 2019 groups match up with the best the Tigers have had to offer since the big move?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida
Christian Holmes will have a key role in helping make this year’s cornerbacks as good as the E.J. Gaines-led 2013 group.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This will be Missouri’s eighth year in the big, bad ESS-EEE-CEE.

The Tigers have had some good years (2013-14), some bad years (2012, 2015-16) and some meh years (2017-18).

With the way the roster, schedule and the rest of the league are shaping up for 2019, Missouri has a real shot to land between “meh” and “good.” Let’s call it “plus-meh.”

With that in mind, I went back from 2012 on and looked position by position to pick out the top group the Tigers have boasted at each spot, then evaluated the chances this year’s team has at equaling the best of the recent past.

Disclaimer: There’s a whole lot of 2013 in there.

Dream Year: 2018
Key Contributor: Drew Lock – 275-of-437, 3498 yards, 28 TD, 8 INT, 147.65 rating
Can 2019 Match Up?: Eh, probably not. Kelly Bryant will be good, but he might have a hard time going toe-to-toe production-wise with what Lock did last year: so picked over 2017 Lock because of increased efficiency and better play against better defenses.

Running Back
Dream Year: 2013
Key Contributors: Henry Josey – 174 carries, 1166 yards, 16 TD; Russell Hansbrough – 114 carries, 685 yards, 4 TD; Marcus Murphy – 92 carries, 601 yards, 9 TD
Can 2019 Match Up?: Call me biased toward the team I actually covered, but I think not. Larry Rountree may end up being a better back than Josey, Hansbrough or Murphy, if he’s not already. But that depth on the 2013 team – plus James Franklin’s legs – made it so the run game was a constant threat to go along with a pretty potent passing attack as well. Rountree and Tyler Badie are both proven, solid commodities, but we don’t yet know where that third back will come from.

Wide Receiver
Dream Year: 2013
Key Contributors: L’Damian Washington – 50 catches, 893 yards, 10 TD; Dorial Green-Beckham – 59 catches, 883 yards, 12 TD; Marcus Lucas – 58 catches, 692 yards, 3 TD; Bud Sasser – 26 catches, 361 yards, TD; Jimmie Hunt – 22 catches, 253 yards, TD
Can 2019 Match Up?: Nah. I mean, just look at that group. You had a basketball frontcourt starting, with each member bringing complementary skill sets to the mix. Then you had Sasser, the dude who helped save the 2014 season at times, basically coming off the bench. Johnathon Johnson is a good piece to have at the top this year, Jalen Knox showed flashes and Jonathan Nance is intriguing, but I don’t think this team can run five-deep like 2013 did.

Tight End
Dream Year: 2017
Key Contributors: Albert Okwuegbunam – 29 catches, 415 yards, 11 TD; Kendall Blanton – 6 catches, 138 yards, TD; Jason Reese – 5 catches, 134 yards, 3 TD
Can 2019 Match Up?: You know what? I think so. Okwuegbunam is back (conceivably) healthy and two years better than 2017, and Daniel Parker will have another offseason at the position under his belt…and he wasn’t too shabby last year to begin with. Whoever comes out of the Brendan Scales/Messiah Swinson/Logan Christopherson mix may have trouble measuring up to the versatility of Reese but 2019’s top two might be better enough than 2017’s to not make it matter much.

Offensive Line
Dream Year: 2013
Key Contributors: LT Justin Britt; LG Max Copeland; C Evan Boehm; RG Connor McGovern; RT Mitch Morse
Can 2019 Match Up?: Probably not, and just for the simple fact that it would be tough for any program in any year to sport a line that featured four future draft picks (plus my all-time favorite interview/person I covered!) and NFL starters, all of whom basically stayed healthy for the entire season. Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Trystan Colon-Castillo and Yasir Durant have provided the backbone to some pretty stellar Missouri lines over the past 2-3 years, but it remains to be seen who the new starters are and what level they can be expected to play this season.

Defensive Ends
Dream Year: 2013
Key Contributors: Michael Sam – 48 tackles, 19 TFL, 11.5 sacks; Kony Ealy – 43 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks; Markus Golden – 55 tackles, 13 TFL, 6.5 sacks; Shane Ray – 39 tackles, 9 TFL, 4.5 sacks
Can 2019 Match Up?: Nope, and for much the same reason explained in the offensive line section. You’ve got four future draft picks on the two-deep – including one first-rounder and two second-rounders – and Golden pulling insane per-snap production numbers as a backup. And, unlike the offensive line situation, the raw material for this to be a solid-to-standout group doesn’t appear to be there. Chris Turner and Akial Byers (and Tre Williams?) got a bunch of experience last year, but no one really differentiated himself.

Defensive Tackles
Dream Year: 2014
Key Contributors: Harold Brantley – 54 tackles, 7 TFL, 5 sacks; Lucas Vincent – 42 tackles, 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks; Matt Hoch – 35 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks; Josh Augusta – 22 tackles, 3.5 TFL, sack
Can 2019 Match Up?: Like Sheldon Richardson and Terry Beckner before him, Jordan Elliott could end up being a better overall player than Brantley (although I think we forget how dynamic Brantley was before the car crash and his exit from the program), but I don’t know that 2019 has the juice down the roster to march Vincent, Hoch and Augusta. The Tigers’ top four tackles in 2014 all played interchangeably and well on a good defense. I don’t know that this year’s team can reach down very far behind the starters and expect no dropoff.

Dream Year: 2015
Key Contributors: Kentrell Brothers – 152 tackles, 12 TFL, 2.5 sacks; Michael Scherer – 93 tackles, 9 TFL; Donavin Newsom – 63 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks; Clarence Green – 26 tackles, TFL
Can 2019 Match Up?: Cale Garrett is going to be a really good middle linebacker for the Tigers this year, possibly better than Scherer and Andrew Wilson by the time his career comes to a close. But he lost his Brothers (Terez Hall) and Newsom (Brandon Lee) to graduation, and it’s anybody’s guess as to who will step up and how effective they’ll be this season.

Dream Year: 2013
Key Contributors: E.J. Gaines – 75 tackles, 5 INT, 3 PBU; Randy Ponder – 56 tackles, 10 PBU; Aarion Penton – 16 tackles, INT, PBU; John Gibson – 14 tackles, INT, 3 PBU
Can 2019 Match Up?: I think so, actually. DeMarkus Acy may not end up as good as Gaines, but he is plenty good and Christian Holmes has the potential to be a much more impactful corner than Ponder. Add in Adam Sparks as an experienced backup/Nickelback, and you’ve got the beginnings of a pretty stout group.

Dream Year: 2014
Key Contributors: Braylon Webb – 70 tackles, 4 INT, 3 PBU; Ian Simon – 54 tackles, 3 PBU; Duron Singleton – 52 tackles, 2.5 TFL, sack; Thomas Wilson – 17 tackles, PBU; Anthony Sherrils – 13 tackles
Can 2019 Match Up?: Maybe not, but check back with me in 2020. Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie have both showed promise, and Jalani Williams has the pedigree. Could be a pretty good group pretty soon.

Dream Year: 2018
Key Contributors: Tucker McCann – 24-of-33 FG, 51-of-54 XP, 123 points, 59.6 TB%; Corey Fatony – 44.4 avg., 24 in20
Can 2019 Match Up?: One half of it can. McCann is back and two years removed from his nightmare-inducing freshman campaign in 2016. But who will do the punting? And will he do it as well as Fatony? And will he be as good at bench press and selling fake punts?

Dream Year: 2012
Key Contributors: Marcus Murphy – 19 KO, 458 yards, TD; 27 PR, 374 yards, 3 TD
Can 2019 Match Up?: Nah. Johnathon Johnson had a pretty good year on punt returns in 2017 but was a non-factor last year, and I can’t see them asking him to do too much more than fair catching and keeping the ball safe in 2019. Richaud Floyd is still on the roster, though, and he’s been an intermittently dynamic returner.