If you have read any of the recaps that I have done over the course of the season, you’d know I’m a huge fan of Trajan Jeffcoat. He stood out on film, and got better throughout the year. It was a unexpected surprise that he was even on the team, let alone become the best defensive lineman on the roster. For his troubles, Jeffcoat was chosen to be on the All-SEC 1st team. He finished tied for second in the conference in sacks (in an all SEC slate), and was consistently graded as one of the better defensive ends against the pass and the run in the SEC. He did all of this coming off a year long hiatus from football. That’s the good news.
Here’s the great news: He’s coming back next year, and is going to have some reinforcements with him. Not only will the 2021 Missouri Tigers return an upper echelon pass rusher in Jeffcoat, but he’s going to have a couple of four star recruits (along with many other edge rushers) in Travion Ford and Kyran Montgomery to help bring along the way. This is something that recent Missouri teams have been severely lacking.
What made Missouri “D-Line Zou” is the consistent nature of how this program produced pass rushers and passed the tradition down to the next guy. I think of Michael Sam coming into the program and learning from guys like Jacquies Smith, and then as Michael Sam develops into the player that he went on to be, I think of guys like Kony Ealy and Shane Ray stepping into roles similar to their predecessor. It’s the continuity that made it feel as special as it did.
That continuity has a chance in this case to pay huge dividends in the present, but also for the future of this Mizzou defense. Having a player like Jeffcoat means you can take some of the pressure off of freshman edge rushers who would’ve been expected to come in and be THE guy, right away. They can simply come in, and be a piece to the puzzle, and grow into a bigger role down the line. That’s how the good programs do it.
Looking at the projected returners along the defensive line, frankly, has me excited. Missouri will return Jeffcoat obviously, but also there’s a good possibility that Kobie Whiteside is back. Both of Isaiah McGuire and Darius Robinson should be back. All of those guys are legitimate SEC caliber players who have room to get better, but are already pretty good. There is a mix of experience and production coming back that Mizzou just hasn’t had for a while. Add in your highly touted freshman class, and you just may have something special going on here.
Missouri has a chance with their returning talent, and their incoming talent, to put the defensive line back amongst the best in the country and re-stake their claim as D-Line Zou.
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