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Three Most Critical Players for Mizzou Football in 2021

Three guys Missouri NEEDS to play well in order to make some noise in 2021.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Missouri at Georgia

Connor Bazelak:

This one is pretty obvious. The QB position is everything to any football teams hope.

One year ago, Connor Bazelak was rehabbing a nasty ACL injury suffered at the end of the 2019 season. Not only that, but he was also learning a completely new offense. That’s a lot to handle for a guy in his second year on campus. This time around, however, he’s healthy and has a chance at establishing some continuity in year two of being in the Eli Drinkwitz system. These are all great things for the freshman out of Ohio.

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

Bazelak did some really nice things over the course of the season and showed some flashes of the guy who he could be, but he’s going to have to develop a bit more consistency in his intermediate to deep game, and some better chemistry with his receivers this year. It’s not for a lacking of physical tools, but just inexperience that comes along with being a young player with a lot of responsibility.

I do think Bazelak is going to show some growth, and for Missouri to reach the heights that it wants to, he’s got to become a plus player, not just a game manager.

Kobie Whiteside

Kobie Whiteside has been at Mizzou for what seems to be a century now. He was part of the 2017 signing class, and through his time at Missouri he’s played a variety of roles along the defensive line. He’s known mainly as an interior presence, but was also a little known reserve, and a sidekick to players like Jordan Elliot and Terry Beckner, Jr. He’s also been the “go-to guy” for periods of time on the field in 2020 before an injury derailed his season.

Now, in year five, it’s the last ride for Whiteside, and his potential impact couldn’t be more important. With a consistent edge presence now in Trajan Jeffcoat, the interior sure could use a guy on the inside to push the pocket up.

Insert Kobie.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When healthy, Whiteside has shown the ability to be as disruptive as any guy on this roster from the defensive tackle spot. Whiteside unfortunately will miss spring practice as he recovers from offseason surgery, but as long as he’s getting mental reps (very important while learning a new scheme), I figure he’ll be fine.

Whiteside is one of the reasons I’m a little bit bullish on this group. He returns not only experience, but production as well. Adding him back into a group that has some really nice pieces in not just Jeffcoat, but with Darius Robinson, Isaiah McGuire and others, I think it can be a really good group.

Jalani Williams

A projected starter in 2021, Williams has been somewhat blocked from playing time due to the safety tandem of Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie. Williams was given some snaps in 2020, mostly later in the season, and he performed about as well as one could expect with a defensive backfield that was falling apart around him.

In 2021, he will be starting AND have quite a bit of responsibility.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Williams is obviously going to have to cover receivers in space, but one of the benefits of running a 4-2-5 defense is that you have a lot of speed on the field. That speed is going to need to make tackles in space and come down into the box and play the run as well.

Williams was a four star recruit back in 2019 and the second highest recruit in the Odom era according to 247. He hasn’t had the opportunity until now to prove the player he is, but if he can find a way to play at a high level he can cover up what seems to be a position in a bit of flux with not just two starters missing, but also a new defensive coordinator and position coach.

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