Throughout the remainder of the offseason, I’ll be putting a spotlight on one returning player and one newcomer at each position who’s generally intriguing for the 2022 season. There are plenty of avenues of thought when it comes to who you may think is most interesting, so feel free to voice your opinion down below in the comments!
Returner: Kris Abrams-Draine, CB
Let’s preface this part with this fact: Kris Abrams-Draine began his career at Missouri as a wide receiver, and 2021 was his first season playing cornerback.
In the first part of the season, it kind of showed. Teams noticed that he was still adjusting to the position and targeted him. There were penalties, there were blown coverages and there were times early on where you didn’t quite feel good if the ball was being thrown in his direction. Through that though, you could still see the flashes of what the coaching staff saw in him, and how he could be a starter. The speed, the fluidity, and the ball skills were there.
As the season went along, Abrams-Draine continued to improve and got to a point to where he was a plus player in the slot. He showed a knack for getting into passing lanes, flying around to the ball in pursuit as well as a more disciplined approach when it came to double moves.
As well as turning himself to a really good corner, Abrams-Draine also showed some of why he was a highly touted player on the other side of the ball.
He’s also a pretty good kick returner as well:
In 2022, I truly believe that Abrams-Draine has the potential to be an All SEC type of player. At the rate he has figured out the position and become impactful, I feel comfortable saying that in a “non hot take” kind of way. He has a lot of those traits that you see from these corners that end up being recognized as such. The range, and the overall fluidness to his game is impressive.
Newcomer: Joseph Charleston, Safety
Charleston coming to Missouri after his transfer from Clemson was a nice pickup from the portal by Missouri, and the experience that he has will be important for this Tiger defense.
He has a reputation of a sure tackler, and a guy who likes the idea of coming down into the box and making plays in the run game. He’s athletic enough to cover, but where he really shines is in the run game.
One could make the argument that Charleston transferred in order to find a clearer path to playing time, but an underrated subplot of this upcoming season will be how they find ways to get him on the field while also the other guys they have returning. JC Carlies and Martez Manuel are both back in 2022, and both were very solid players who don’t seem likely to have playing time siphoned off.
This isn’t to say that he’ll be sitting the bench, but Missouri will have to find ways to be creative with the assets that they have. They’ll need to find ways to have all three of their talented safeties on the field. Maybe they play more safeties than corners in their sub-packages, maybe they rotate a little more, I’m not sure.
But Charleston and his combination of big game experience, as well as positional versatility is a great chess piece for new defensive coordinators Blake Baker and DJ Smith.