It was 2014. That was the last time Missouri had a defensive lineman on the First Team All-SEC list.
Mizzou Football had a great season that year which culminated in a Citrus Bowl win over Minnesota, and D-Line Zou was in full effect. Shane Ray was named First Team All-SEC, and Markus Golden was named Second Team All-SEC. It was a simpler time. A better time.
Fast forward to the end of 2020 and D-Line Zou is making a comeback with Trajan Jeffcoat, a player who left the team in 2019 and triumphantly returned in 2020.
In 2020, Jeffcoat was a monster off of the edge for Missouri. He finished with six sacks — tied for fifth in the SEC — and also was a decent run defender. For the most part, he played disciplined and showed off effective pass rush moves. And to top it off, Jeffcoat’s production was best against really good competition, recording sacks against Alabama, Georgia, and LSU.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the things that Trajan Jeffcoat does really well.
Jeffcoat saw quite a few double teams, especially as the season wore on, and he continued to make his presence felt.
This is just one example, but in this specific clip, he’s lined up with both a guard and tackle. He begins in what is known as a “6” technique. It’s where you’re lined up head on with the right tackle. He makes an inside move that surprises the tackle with his speed and ability to get inside and is able to “get skinny”, split the double, and make the play. That’s pretty much how you would teach it. Also, if that’s not an [insert fire emoji] sack celebration, I don’t know what is.
Sometimes, as a defensive lineman, it’s not always going to be a beautiful spin move that gets you to the QB in 1.5 seconds. Sometimes, you may work a move, and it’ll be defended well. That’s okay.
One of the few things you can control as a player is your effort level. This was something that I thought Jeffcoat really showed a knack for doing. He hustled.
There’s an initial move that is attempted and he gets washed out the play for his troubles. But, he stays with the play, works his way down the line, shows off some speed, and makes the play over teammate (now Arkansas Razorback) Tre Williams, who actually looks to be pursuing from a better angle than Jeffcoat.
Nastiness (and a little discipline)
To be able to play football in general - but in particular the defensive line - you need a bit of nastiness to your game. You need to be able to make skill position players pay for it (below the neck or head area) when they come into your area. Jeffcoat showed flashes of that nastiness all throughout the past season.
In this clip, not only does he absolutely demolish Guarantano as he’s releasing the ball, but he attacked HIS responsibility. As a defensive end, usually, when RPO’s are called by the offense, your responsibility is to contain the QB, and that he did.
Trajan Jeffcoat has improved his body and his skills since his arrival on campus, and in 2020 it paid off in a big way. He got the recognition he deserved, and that’s great for D-Line Zou. However, in 2021, he’s going to have to take another leap. He struggled at times with hand usage and has a tendency to get washed out by bigger, stronger linemen in the run game. I’m curious to see if new DL coach Jethro Franklin can help him add a few more things to his tool bag.
In 2020, I was the proud founder of the Trajan Jeffcoat Fan Club:
The Trajan Jeffcoat Fan Club is now taking applications, contact @iAirDry for more info— ROCK Mask-up NATION (@RockMNation) December 5, 2020
It was so unbelievably nice to have a defensive end that someone took seriously, and may even leave a running back in to chip on. In 2021, for this defense to truly improve though, I think they need to see Trajan tap into some of his limitless potential. If he can start utilizing his hands a bit more and tries to become more consistent in the run game, I not only think this regional fan club will turn into a national one, but I think we may have some professional scouts who may join in too.
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