There isn’t a position on Mizzou’s roster that benefited more from the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility than the defensive line. Tre Williams is the only scholarship player from Mizzou’s defensive line a year ago who isn’t expected to be back for the 2021 season.
Trajan Jeffcoat, Markell Utsey, Chris Turner, Kobie Whiteside, Akial Byers, Isaiah McGuire, Darius Robinson, Ben Key, Jatorian Hansford, Johnny Walker, Jr., Andrew Serrano and Cannon York are all returning. The position is in a good spot for depth in the upcoming season.
It’s also set up for future success.
The Tigers signed five 4-star players in the 2021 recruiting class. Two of two five players line up along the defensive line (Travion Ford and Kyran Montgomery). Rivals gave both Mekhi Wingo and Arden Walker a 5.7 rating (the highest to qualify as a 3-star player). Jonathan Jones is another 3-star defensive end prospect with promise.
But it’s the junior college defensive linemen the Tigers added who grabbed headlines in the Tigers’ second scrimmage of the spring.
Today was #Mizzou’s first 11-on-11 live tackling of spring, which players enjoyed (especially defense). JUCO newcomers Realus George Jr. and Daniel Robledo are guys to watch for on the defensive line. George was in the backfield a ton today.— Bennett Durando (@BennettDurando) March 13, 2021
“Both of them have really good motors,” Drinkwitz said. “They’re bringing energy. They’re going to be a good fit in our room.”
It shouldn’t come as a shock that these are the newcomers making their presence felt along the defensive line. Coaches recruit JUCO players to play right away.
George is a bit of an older prospect, too. He was the top rated fullback in the country when he originally committed to the University of Miami in 2018. Three years, two schools and a position change later, he’s at Mizzou trying to earn his spot along the interior of the defensive line.
#Mizzou's most intriguing commit might be 2-star defensive tackle Realus George. He committed to Miami in '18 as the #1 FB in the country. He lost his starting job last year & transferred to JuCo for '20. Could be solid depth at DT right away. pic.twitter.com/B3GMB66DLn— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) December 16, 2020
Robledo is a more traditional Junior College product. He grew up in Arizona and went straight to East Los Angeles to boost his recruiting profile for a power five school like Mizzou.
“Spring’s usually a struggle period for those junior-college players just because of the tempo, amount of reps, the intensity, the detail with which we practice,” Drinkwitz said. “If they can absorb it in these next four months... they’ll put us in a position to help us improve in the fall.”
The Tigers’ starters appear to be cemented along the defensive line. Jeffcoat will start at one defensive end spot. McGuire, Hansford and Turner appear to be the front-runners to start at the defensive end position opposite Jeffcoat. Utsey, Whiteside, Byers and Robinson will share the majority of the snaps along the interior.
There are still snaps to be had, though, especially with a strong spring. Robledo and George were recruited for a reason. If they continue impressing throughout the spring, don’t be surprised to see one or both sneak into the rotation along the defensive line.