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What does the transfer portal hold for Missouri football?

Whew. The transfer portal opened up on Dec. 5th, and a lot has happened between then and now.

Syndication: Gator Sports Alan Youngblood / USA TODAY NETWORK

A new era of college football is upon us. On day one of the transfer portal being open (Monday, 12/5), more than 1,000 athletes officially entered their name into the portal. Since then, that number has more than tripled.

Players from all schools across all position groups are searching for new places to jumpstart their careers. Such is the new way of college football.

Backups and benched players now don’t have to just sit behind the starters. Instead, they can find a new home where they can see more playing time and exposure. It’s allowed guys such as Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts, Kenneth Walker, Jr. and plenty of others to become stars at new places. Many argue that the existence of the portal has also balanced the playing field nationally, as star athletes now opt to enroll in smaller programs and it is harder for the elite schools (Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, etc.) to keep hold of all of their 4- and 5-star recruits. The portal also puts more power in the hands of the athletes, as now not only coaches can jump ship for another program if a better opportunity arises.

However, there have been cons to the portal. Virtually every player across the CFB landscape is on the market at any given time, meaning that recruiting is now not just limited to high school kids. Coaches have no idea what their rosters will look like next season as of now, and continuity is becoming more and more of a concern. Some players appear to be abusing the system as well, transferring not once, not twice, but three times (and in the case of J.T. Daniels, a fourth). Some believe the portal is already getting out of hand and that stricter guidelines need to be put in place.

There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the system. After all, the portal is merely just over four years old. But, now every coaching staff and player in the nation is now in a major adjustment period, trying to adapt on the fly to a rapidly evolving landscape.

What does all this team for Mizzou? Well, they’ve been relatively quiet on the transfer front thus far, but that likely won’t last for long. Let’s take a look at some of the top targets the Tigers could go after, as well as who can benefit the most from the recent departures.

Note: Dan Keegan already handled the QB-side of things in a separate article on the site, so go give that a read. I’m going to focus on non-quarterbacks in this one.

Top 5 Non-QB Transfer Targets

Drake Nugent

Position: Offensive Guard/Center

Previous School: Stanford

Eligibility Remaining: 1 Season

Why: One of the most glaring weaknesses for the 2022 Missouri Tigers was the offensive line. Throughout the season, opposing teams took advantage of the weaker unit and disrupted the entire offense’s rhythm by not allowing Brady Cook to have any time and not being able to create running lanes.

Case in point: The line needs more depth, and quality depth at that. Enter Drake Nugent, an evacuee from a Stanford program going through immense change. Nugent, a native of Colorado, is a physical interior linemen with plenty of college experience with the Cardinal. At 6’2”, 275 lbs., he has the size to compete in the SEC, and even if he is not a day-one starter, Nugent could be a reliable member of the rotation up front.

24/7 Sports has Nugent ranked as the #48 overall prospect and #5 offensive lineman in the transfer portal.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Ajani Cornelius

Position: Offensive Tackle

Previous School: Rhode Island

Eligibility Remaining: 1 Season

Why: Yes, another offensive lineman. It’s needed.

And, while some may scratch their head at Cornelius being from Rhode Island, that should not deter Mizzou from pursuing him. After being largely overlooked coming out of high school, with only one Power 5 offer (Syracuse), Cornelius has quickly become a known commodity in college football. Obviously, his 6’4”, 315 lb. frame jumps off the page at first, but the guard has great feet and has the makings to be an NFL prospect in the future. What better place to prove that than in the SEC, where you’ll take on NFL-caliber defensive linemen nearly every week?

24/7 Sports has Cornelius listed as the #8 overall prospect and #1 offensive lineman in the transfer portal.

Dorian Singer

Position: Wide Receiver

Previous School: Arizona

Eligibility Remaining: 3 Seasons

Career Stats: 84 receptions, 1,406 receiving yards, 6 TDs

Why: This is more of a luxury pick after the addition of Theo Wease, Jr., but why not surround Brady Cook with another weapon?

Dominic Lovett’s surprise transfer really shifted up the Missouri wide receiver room. And while there are some promising youngsters waiting to emerge from the group (to be discussed later), it would still be nice to have one other proven target out wide.

It doesn’t get more proven than Dorian Singer. The Phoenix native exploded as a redshirt freshman in 2022, as he had a team-leading 1,105 receiving yards as well as six touchdowns. Singer is a versatile receiver who can play in the slot or on the perimeter, and he’s got some great hands to boot. Drinkwitz could certainly find plenty of ways to use Singer in his offense.

Singer is currently rated as the #21 overall prospect and #7 wide receiver in the transfer portal by 24/7 Sports.

Ernest Hausmann

Position: Linebacker

Previous School: Nebraska

Eligibility Remaining: 3 Seasons

Career Stats: 54 total tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery

Why: With multiples losses from the linebacker corps (Ty’Ron Hopper, Devin Nicholson, Zach Lovett) already, depth may be an issue for the group in 2023. Picking up a linebacker in the portal this offseason would be a major boost, and Hausmann is an up-and-coming target who could be perfect for Blake Baker’s defense.

The Nebraska-native became an immediate impact player for the Huskers in 2022, as he demanded playing time with his sideline-to-sideline ability. With three years of eligibility left and still a ways to go in terms of development at this level, Baker could turn him into an elite linebacker if he makes his way to Columbia. The Tigers would have to compete with Iowa, who Hausmann recently visited.

Hausmann is currently rated as the #23 overall prospect and the #2 linebacker in the transfer portal according to 24/7 Sports.

Levi Bell

Position: Defensive Tackle

Previous Schools: Texas State and Louisiana Tech

Eligibility Remaining: 2 Seasons

Career Stats: 92 total tackles, 21 TFLs, 9.5 sacks

Why: Bell has already experienced the portal once before. He signed with Louisiana Tech in 2020 and played there for two seasons before transferring to Texas State for the 2022 season. Now, it appears he wants to step up the competition and venture into the Power 5.

Bell acts as a hybrid DL/LB, which can perfectly replace the role of Ty’Ron Hopper (should he declare, which isn’t official). Or, he could just be used as a pure pass-rusher in the stead of Isaiah McGuire and DJ Coleman. His production in 2022 (65 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 5 sacks) could easily be replicated in Baker’s system.

Bell is currently tabbed as the #37 overall prospect in the transfer portal, and the #3 overall defensive lineman.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Texas Christian Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3 Tigers Who Could Benefit the Most from Departures

Mekhi Miller

Wide Receiver | Freshman

2022 Stats: 6 catches, 108 yards, 18.0 YPC

Why: The loss of Dominic Lovett was a tough pill to swallow for the entire Missouri football program. However, to take a glass half-full approach, Lovett’s departure opens up the opportunity for a plethora of other receivers to step up. Luther Burden III will likely take over as WR #1 in his second season but be on the lookout for fellow sophomore Mekhi Miller. The former 4-star recruit made a name for himself with a clutch third down catch against Arkansas, and he showed flashes of his ability all season long. If he can continue to develop, the frame and athleticism is already there for him to become an elite wide receiver for this team.

Dameon Wilson

Linebacker | Redshirt Freshman

2022 Stats: 16 total tackles, 1 fumble recovery

Why: Much like Miller, Dameon Wilson was another young guy that had his name brought up a lot by the coaching staff this season for his work at practice. He played sparingly this season, mostly on special teams, but with the departures of Zach Lovett and Devin Nicholson, the depth chart opens up for Wilson to take over as a starter in 2023. Wilson was a 3-star recruit in the class of 2021 out of North Carolina, and he took a redshirt season that year. Pictured below is Wilson putting in work on special teams, as he managed to block this punt.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Daylan Carnell

Cornerback | Redshirt Freshman

2022 Stats: 26 tackles, 2 TFLs, 3 INTs, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles

Why: Mr. Carnell already made a name for himself in 2022 with his ball-hawking. His three interceptions made a big impact for this defense, and he was also one of the most sure-tacklers in the secondary. After learning behind the likes of Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. and Kris Abrams-Draine, Carnell appears poised to move into an even larger role in 2023, especially after the departures of Les Hewitt and Darius Jackson. He has all of the ability to be an All-SEC caliber cornerback, and he will be expected to be one of the leaders of this defense next year.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports