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Can Nick Bolton add his name to the list of the best Mizzou defensive players of the last 20 years?

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Mizzou’s defense has been loaded this century with stars. Can Nick Bolton do enough in 2020 to be thought of on the same level as some of the all-time Tigers greats?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Florida at Missouri

Michael Sam. Sean Weatherspoon. Willy Mo. Sheldon Richardson.

The list goes on and on and on.

Mizzou football has been blessed this century with superstars on the defensive side of the ball. I’m not talking about players people in Columbia would recognize. Being labeled a superstar is bigger than that. These players were so good in their time at Mizzou that casual college football fans nationally knew their name.

Is another Mizzou defender about to add his name to the Tigers’ recent star-studded list?

Nick Bolton is making his case.

Bolton burst on the scene a year ago in the second game of the season when Mizzou beat West Virginia and Bolton starred as the best player on the field. He finished that game with three tackles-for-loss and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

His play never seemed to drop off from there. He finished the season with 8.5 tackles-for-loss, a sack, seven passes defended and more than 100 total tackles.

It wasn’t just volume stats, either. Pro Football Focus graded Bolton as the second best linebacker of the 2019 season against power-five offenses. He was among Pro Football Focus’ top 20 graded defensive players last year in all of college football.

Not a bad for a first-time starter.

Oh, and did I mention he’s already getting love as a trendy pre-season All-American choice?

Bolton has all the potential in the world. He’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s probably Mizzou’s best coverage linebacker since Sean Weatherspoon. His instinctive play reminds me at times of watching Kentrell Brothers (but with more speed).

And he absolutely destroys opposing ball carriers.

Bolton was named a first team All-SEC player by the coaches last season. In doing so, he joined Jordan Elliott (2019), Kentrell Brothers (2015), Shane Ray (2014), Michael Sam (2013), Kony Ealy (2013), Sheldon Richardson (2012), Dominique Hamilton (2011), Aldon Smith (2010), Andrew Gachkar (2010), Ziggy Hood (2008), Lorenzo Williams (2007), Marcus Bacon (2006), Atiyyah Ellison (2004), C.J. Mosley (2004), James Kinney (2004) and Justin Smith (2000) as Tigers defenders with one first-team All-Conference honor in their respective careers.

If Bolton were to follow it up with another All-SEC season, he would join EJ Gaines (2011, 2013), Sean Weatherspoon (2007, 2008, 2009) and William Moore (2007, 2008) as the only Tigers defenders this century with multiple first-team All-Conference honors.

Doing it once is special. Doing it again is an accomplishment of legends, especially in this conference.

Bolton has that kind of potential. We’ve seen it once. Is it possible for the sequel to be as good as the debut?