On a team with no clear-cut stars (outside of Harrison Mevis), it becomes virtually anybody’s guess as to who will lead the team in the statistical department. Missouri fits that mold in 2022, so I tried my hand at picking the leaders in every major statistical category.
Top 3 Contenders: Brady Cook, Tyler Macon, Sam Horn
My Pick: Brady Cook
Why: I’ll just go ahead and start by saying I’m a big Brady Cook fan. In very limited action last season, he showed me that he has the potential to be a reliable and efficient quarterback in the SEC. His ability to elude defenders and create with his feet gives him an edge to make up for his smaller stature, and I think a near-full offseason of running with the first team will make a world of difference for his development. If he can even come close to again completing 79% of his passes, then I think this will be a special season for Mr. Cook.
Projected Stats: 2,752 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 68% completion percentage
Top 3 Contenders: Elijah Young, Nathaniel Peat, Cody Schrader
My Pick: Elijah Young
Why: I like patterns, and I see one with Elijah Young following up Tyler Badie. Both were guys who waited their turns to be the focal point of the backfield, and both are versatile guys who are tough to take down in the open field.
The difference is that Badie’s biggest knock was his size, while Young’s will be if he can fend off some more hyped-up contenders. A running back by-committee approach seems most likely here, at least for the first couple weeks of the season, but I like Young to take control at some point and get the bulk of the carries by season’s end.
Projected Stats: 892 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 4.6 yards per carry
Top 3 Contenders: Luther Burden, Dominic Lovett, Tauskie Dove
My Pick: Luther Burden
Why: I mean, it’s probably the easiest pick on here. By no means is that disrespect to a receiving corps that I actually believe to be incredibly deep and explosive, it is more of a compliment to Burden’s ability. The only thing coming in the way of this happening is injury, heaven forbid.
Although it was just a spring game, it showed me all I need to know in that Burden has physical gifts that will allow him to go toe-to-toe with any SEC defensive back. From his hands, to his catch radius, to his speed and strength, there is little to point at in terms of weaknesses. If he can avoid letting the hype get to his head and take care of his body, Burden will have a phenomenal freshman campaign.
Projected Stats: 793 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns, 17.23 yards per catch
Top 3 Contenders: Chad Bailey, Devin Nicholson, Martez Manuel
My Pick: Ty’Ron Hopper
Why: That’s right, my choice isn’t even one of the most likely options in my own eyes. Bailey and Nicholson are in the perfect position to do so as veteran linebackers, while Manuel has finished top 3 on the team in two straight seasons. Despite all of that, I’ll still take Hopper. I think he has the highest upside out of anybody on this defense minus Trajan Jeffcoat, and he is going to prove that early and often. I see him being a disruptive presence up front, the presence that this team missed early on last season.
Projected Stats: 94 tackles, 12 tackles for loss
Top 3 Contenders: Trajan Jeffcoat, Ty’Ron Hopper, Isaiah Maguire
My Pick: Trajan Jeffcoat
Why: It’s now or never for Jeffcoat, and I think he will deliver with a bounce-back season. His 6’4”, 277 lb. frame hasn’t disappeared, and now with a little more help up front, he won’t be the focal point of every offensive line week-in and week-out. Health is again also a concern here, but I think the motivation to improve upon a lackluster 2021 campaign will power Jeffcoat into a strong showing in 2022.
Projected Stats: 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss
Top 3 Contenders: Jaylon Carlies, Joseph Charleston, Kris Abrams-Draine
My Pick: KAD
Why: There are a lot of intriguing options for this in the secondary. Martez Manuel is the proven vet, Charleston comes from a powerhouse with plenty of potential, and Carlies just led the team with four.
However, give me the guy who seems to just have a knack for making big plays and getting a hand on the ball. Kris Abrams-Draine was right behind Carlies with 3 INTs in 2021 but led the team with 7 pass breakups. I think that’ll lend to more interceptions this time around, and Draine will continue to be one of the most exciting players on this team.
Projected Stats: 4 interceptions, 8 pass breakups
*For you special team junkies, the question isn’t if Harrison Mevis will lead Mizzou in field goals...it’s if he’ll lead the country.