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Ennis Rakestraw taking the next step could pay dividends in 2021

The sophomore from Duncanville, Texas can be the difference between this secondary being average, to good, to great.

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Ennis Rakestraw was the first commitment to Eli Drinkwitz in where it felt like the recruiting tide was turning. Pun intended. Missouri had beaten out both Alabama, and Texas for the late blooming cornerback out of Duncanville, Texas. That isn’t customary at Missouri.

Fast forward to the 2020 season where Rakestraw had earned a starting spot at cornerback as a true freshman, and played most of the snaps at his position. Those snaps were pretty uneven, especially when you consider that he was a true freshman. Rakestraw also saw a myriad of receivers in 2020 that were extraordinary college receivers. Rakestraw saw DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Terrace Marshall, Kadarius Toney, and you could honestly keep naming really good receivers. That's a strong list of guys, all of which went in the first two rounds of this past NFL draft.

This is all just a way of saying that Rakestraw had some tough assignments, and competed very well in spite of them. It wasn’t always perfect, but as a true freshman he held his own.

Syndication: USA TODAY Brianna Paciorka, Knoxville News-Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2021, the situation is a bit different for Rakestraw. He went from one of the two top corners, to now being one of three pretty talented guys at his position along with Allie Green IV, and Akayleb Evans. Most would look at the arrival of the two grad transfers as a negative being that the playing time for Rakestraw may decrease. However, there is still a really solid path for him to continue his development and also receive the amount of reps that a starter would.

He can be a nickel corner, which the Missouri defense figures to run a lot of. For reference, Steve Wilks in 2018 for the Arizona Cardinals had nickel personnel on the field 84% of the time. That’s pretty staggering. In 2019, Wilks coordinated the Cleveland Browns defense where they had nickel personnel on the field 66% of the time. Still a very high percentage in the grand scheme of things. They may-not do it to that extent, but that seems like enough data to expect for Missouri’s defense to have three corners on the field at least pretty regularly.

The opportunity is still there, but Rakestraw is going to have to be a bit flexible and play in that slot corner role more than he did in 2020. Which is a good thing not just for the team, but for his overall development. He can learn how to play in the slot, and become a more complete overall player.

There’s a lot to like about Ennis Rakestraw Jr. I loved how he competed last year. It wasn’t always perfect, or the best situation for the defense to be in, but he showed that no matter the situation, he’s a competitor. He’s an excellent athlete, and is a really fluid player at that. I’m a fan of his ball skills, and what he can bring to a secondary but his path to taking that next step starts with developing his body, embracing what his new teammates can do to make his life easier, and being more disciplined. He has the perfect mix of surrounding talent, and opportunity.

If he can take that step, that Missouri defense may just be a no fly zone in 2021.

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