The interior defensive line isn’t the most flashy part of the defensive line, but it is equally as important as the guys on the edge who get the opportunity to rack up the sacks. They control their gaps, and make the quarterback his most uncomfortable when being pressured up the middle.
That being said, Missouri has a few guys who have at least shown some flashes of doing those things on a consistent basis, and look to be promising going into 2021. This group of defensive tackles has a chance to be really good.
Kobie Whiteside was beginning to generate a lot of buzz with his 2019 season. He managed to rack up seven sacks, and had a lot of expectations for 2020. With football though, injuries happen. Kobie was largely unavailable last year due to injuries, including an MCL tear, and when he was on the field just looked a little hobbled.
Kobie, when healthy, has proven to be a really talented player and a force to be reckon with. He can be a top end run stuffer while also being a good pass rusher. It’s hard to find defensive tackles who can do both.
Whiteside is a good bounce-back candidate for 2021, and if he can stay healthy, could be one of the bigger surprises around the conference. He’s probably a good pick to be a starter.
Another guy you can probably count on seeing a lot of is Akial Byers. Byers is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility, and has always been an intriguing player. He has shown some agility and position flexibility in the past, but hasn’t quite put together a full season of production yet.
What a better time than now?
Byers has been a great representative of Missouri and a pretty good player. He can line up in a 1, 3, or a 5 technique and give you quality play at each spot— that type of thing doesn’t happen very often. He came back for one more chance in a big role, and he’s going to get it. There’s nothing I’d like more to see Byers capitalize on his potential and rack up some production. He also will probably be a starter.
The newcomers to this group are really interesting, and you kind of have a grab bag of options.
Are you looking for a guy to develop? Can I interest you in a Mekhi Wingo?
What about a JUCO defensive lineman? Mizzou has a guy with collegiate snaps in Daniel Robledo.
What about an upside pick? How about Realus George?
Seriously though, there’s a lot of different options in the interior group that could see some sort of playing time for Missouri. It’s a group of talented group of athletes, but I do think each player may have reasons why they may not get on the field much.
Wingo is true freshman, and maybe he doesn’t develop fast enough to keep pace in the SEC.
Robledo, who is making a position change from being an edge guy to moving to the interior may not be able to adjust fast enough.
George came into college football as a fullback and hasn’t been playing defensive line very long.
The point is, though they are very talented, we just don’t know what you can expect from these guys yet.
Coach Jethro Franklin has some pretty good options when it comes to making Mizzou formidable up the middle. They have plenty of experience and there are multiple guys within this unit who seem to be really close to breaking through to the next stage of their development and making a true impact for the team.
If Coach Franklin can find the right guys, or help someone make a leap from where they were, this could be a special group to watch in 2021.
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