I can’t imagine there’s ever been less buzz about an in-state 4-star player committing to Missouri over Alabama than there has been over the last week about defensive tackle Marquis Gracial.
Part of that is timing. Gracial streamed his announcement on a Friday afternoon, a time slot normally reserved for “dumping” bad news in hopes it doesn’t make the same waves when the news cycle starts back up the following Monday. Unfortunately, the timing had an unintended consequence for Gracial’s commitment, which led to a lack of hype about a player who is deserving of a heck of a lot of praise.
Let’s take a quick look at the list of four star defensive linemen to sign with Missouri in the last decade, shall we? This is the company Gracial keeps.
- 2010 - Kony Ealy (DE)
- 2011 - Sheldon Richardson (DT)
- 2015 - Terry Beckner Jr. (DT)
- 2016 - Tre Williams (DE)
- 2018 - Daniel Parker Jr. (DE)
- 2021 - Kyran Montgomery (DE)
- 2021 - Travion Ford (DE)
- 2022 - Marquis Gracial (DT)
If Gracial holds his commitment and signs with Missouri, he would join Montgomery, Beckner Jr, Richadson and Ealy as the only Missouri defensive line signees in the last decade ranked among the Rivals top 250 players in the country. Not bad!
There’s a reason Gracial is so highly rated. He’s a massive human being, listed at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds. He’s also been productive in high school. In 10 games last season, Gracial accumulated 61 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and three sacks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Oh, and did I mention he’s a freak athlete? Gracial has reportedly been timed with a sub-5 second 40-yard dash. He’s spent time lined up at nose tackle, defensive end and as an outside linebacker in his time at St. Charles High School.
Size, production and potential. Check, check and check. Yeah, that’ll play.
He’s also going to be a hugely valuable piece in what Eli Drinkwitz and new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks are attempting to build on the defensive side of the football. Wilks’ defensive tackles have been very productive in his three years as a defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL.
- 2017 Panthers - Kawann Short, Kyle Love and Star Lotulelei combine for 12.5 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss and 30 QB hits.
- 2018 Cardinals - Rodney Gunter, Robert Nkendiche & Corey Peters combined for 11.5 sacks, 29 tackles-for-loss and 20 QB hits.
- 2019 Browns - Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson combined for 8.5 sacks, 14 tackles-for-loss and 19 QB hits.
Gracial has the potential to fill the role of a productive 3-technique in Wilks’ defense. The 3-technique lines up on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard. He’s typically utilized as more of a pass rushing presence than the nose tackle. Short, Nkendiche and Richardson all had success in that role for Wilks in the NFL, and Gracial could follow suit at Missouri.
Maybe most importantly, Gracial adds some depth to a position that will be lacking proven players after the 2021 season.
Byers and Whiteside have been consistent producers in their careers at Missouri. But what’s behind them is a lot of unknown. Robinson has shown flashes of greatness, but can he sustain it? McGuire is probably more of a defensive end at this point than a defensive tackle. Wingo is entering his first season on campus. We’ll see with Key and George.
Could that mean immediate playing time for Gracial? I wouldn’t rule it out. This is a big time commitment. Don’t let the timing of Gracial’s announcement throw us off the scent of just how significant this was for what Drinkwitz and Wilks are building.