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Roster Reset: Mizzou looking for someone to step up at defensive end opposite Trajan Jeffcoat

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Trajan Jeffcoat is one of the top returning defensive ends in the SEC. But who will step up for Mizzou at the other defensive end position?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s spring ball time!

Well, kind of.

Mizzou is scheduled to open up spring practice on February 28th. So, it’s close. Spring practice is slated to come to an end on March 26th. We’re still not sure when (if?) there will be a Black and Gold game this spring.

With spring practice only a few short weeks away, it’s time to take a look at who is back, who is leaving and who the Tigers have added since the end of the 2020 season.

We kicked things off with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line. Let’s continue with a look at the defensive ends.

Defensive End Reset:

Returning:

  • Chris Turner (Senior)
  • Trajan Jeffcoat (Sophomore)
  • Jatorian Hansford (Sophomore)
  • Cannon York (Sophomore)
  • Z’Core Brooks (Freshman)
  • Johnny Walker, Jr. (Freshman)

Arriving:

Returning Player Analysis:

The Tigers are losing Tre Williams and Sci Martin, but the rest of Mizzou’s defensive ends are expected to be back for the 2021 season. Trajan Jeffcoat is the reason for optimism at the position. He had a legitimate breakout season with six sacks, six tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries, finishing the year as a first-team All-SEC defensive end.

Jeffcoat is one heck of a story. He showed promise on the field as a true freshman in 2018 before stepping away from the program in 2019. He wasn’t expected to be part of the program in 2020. Not only was he part of the program, but he showed up at camp without practicing for a year and immediately produced like one of the top defensive ends in the conference. Not too shabby.

The real question is who will step up on the other side of the defense. The Tigers are expected to move to a more traditional 4-3 (or, more likely, 4-2-5) defense under Steve Wilks. That means more traditional defensive ends on the other side of Jeffcoat. Chris Turner and Jatorian Hansford are probably the favorites to win that job. You also might see Isaiah McGuire kicked outside on running downs like we did last year.

New Arrival to Keep an Eye on:

Turner, Hansford and McGuire will have plenty of competition to start opposite Jeffcoat. The Tigers had one heck of a recruiting class with Kyran Montgomery and Travion Ford joining the mix as four star recruits. Daniel Robledo is joining the roster as a JUCO transfer. You don’t bring in JUCO transfers for no reason. I suspect he’ll see some playing time, even if it’s as a reserve, in 2021.

And then you have Arden Walker and Jonathan Jones, both of whom arrive with some hype as well regarded three star prospects.

The Tigers needed an influx of talent at defensive end. They added plenty of it in the offseason. It might not show up on the field as early as 2021, but this recruiting class should give Mizzou fans plenty of reasons for optimism beyond the upcoming season.

Position Battle to Watch:

It’s the left defensive end position, no doubt. Trajan Jeffcoat should play every snap he’s available at right end. Who steps up on the other side? Nobody really stepped up a year ago. Can one of the new additions come in and contribute right away? Will Hansford take another step?

There might not be a singular position on the roster with more in flux than that defensive end spot opposite Jeffcoat. The entire 2-deep at the position is up for grabs.

Bottom Line:

Mizzou fans have plenty of reasons for optimism at defensive end, both for 2021 and beyond. Jeffcoat is a legitimate All-SEC candidate once again, and another productive season could put him on the fast track to the NFL. The Tigers’ latest recruiting class added a pool of talent at the position that didn’t exist a year ago.

The next step is turning that potential into production. New defensive line coach Jethro Franklin will have the opportunity to work with some talented young players this spring. Watching their development will be one of the most intriguing storylines heading into spring ball.