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Mizzou’s linebacking corps is full of veterans, but will require a youth movement soon

Ty’Ron Hopper raises the ceiling for the linebackers, but at least one or two freshmen will need to prove their mettle.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, we’re just a few weeks away from another season of Missouri Tiger football. As we do every summer, we’ve gathered the editorial staff to answer various questions about the different position groups across the roster.

The football pads are officially n and we’re three weeks from our first Monday of game week. Can you feel the electricity running through your bones? If you can, maybe drink some water and sit down for a second.

We’re quickly closing in on the 2021-2022 Mizzou Football season. The QB race is in full swing. Most players have their numbers. We’re starting to get a sense of who’s pulling ahead in the position battles. But while that’s all still being settled, we’ve got more previews to drop for you!

Check out the rest of our series below before hopping into some riveting linebacker talk!

Mizzou mined the transfer portal plenty over the offseason, and no addition was bigger than Ty’ron Hopper out of Florida. What does he bring that last year’s defense didn’t have?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: Last season, it was almost impossible to replace the Nick Bolton production. Blaze Alldredge did an admirable job, but the talent missing was obvious.

Now, Missouri brings in not only an experienced Power Five linebacker, but one that just had a breakout season in the SEC at Florida. Ty’Ron Hopper also has the impressive recruiting history; he was ranked as one of the top linebackers and a Top 100 recruit in the 2019 class. That’s what this unit desperately needs. After Cale Garret and Nick Bolton, Missouri was missing “that” guy among the linebacker position, and Ty’Ron Hopper has all the intangibles to live up to high expectations.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: I hope people are excited about Ty’Ron Hopper, because they should be. He’s a legitimate NFL prospect. If you have an opportunity to go back and re-watch Mizzou’s game last year against Florida, you’ll see a whole lot of Hopper. He was everywhere in that game. The task for the coaching staff is to make sure he has plenty of opportunities to make plays from sideline to sideline. He’ll also be a boost as an extra rusher when they decide to use him as a blitzer.

Hopper’s playing style reminds me of watching Terez Hall late in Hall’s career at Mizzou. He moves differently on the football field than any of Missouri’s linebackers have in recent years.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: Sammy described him as, “that guy,” above and while that’s not exactly a quantitative title, I’ll agree they were missing a standout talent. Blaze Alldredge came on strong toward the end of the season, but Ty’Ron Hopper is a different breed. You don’t need to study his game tape too closely to see a guy who’s on another level in terms of speed and tenacity on the ball. Hopper roaming the second level of the defense should give Missouri a dynamic presence the were lacking in 2021.

Chad Bailey had his long-awaited breakout as a viable starter and Devin Nicholson provided valuable rotation and starting snaps last season. What should fans expect from the senior leaders in 2022?

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

Sammy Stava: I think it’s fair for fans to expect Chad Bailey and Devin Nicholson to have both have big senior seasons, especially with the talent of Ty’ron Hopper coming in an helping this unit. Bailey had 11 total tackles in 2020, and 55 last season. That’s a huge improvement. I think they’re both ready to take a leadership role at this position — and help some of these promising, young talented freshman.

Brandon Kiley: I’m probably not as high on Nicholson as Sammy is, but I expect a strong season out of Chad Bailey. I think Bailey can patrol the middle of the field in a way Michael Scherer did for the Tigers in the mid-2010’s. Bailey isn’t the quickest or the biggest linebacker on the team, but he has a knack for being around the football and you could see a noticeable difference against the run, in particular, when he was on the field down the stretch. Bailey produced 40 tackles in the team’s final six games of the season. Tackle numbers are in no way the end-all, be-all, but that matches the eye test for Bailey. He’s a solid contributor in the middle of the defense who seemed to do a good job of getting everyone lined up as the MIKE in the middle of the defense.

Josh Matejka: Fans should expect production. If they don’t deliver, there’s going to be trouble.

Nicholson had a lot of buzz coming out of camp a few years ago, but he’s settled into his role as a reliable SEC backup. Bailey, on the other hand, intrigues me. There’s something to be said about a linebacker who racks up tackles like nobody’s business, and Bailey seems primed for that role. With Hopper in the fold, running backs should be looking toward the middle more often where Bailey can scoop them up. It wouldn’t surprise me to see CB lead the team in tackles by a fair margin come season’s end.

There are plenty of youngsters — and one senior transfer in Chuck Hicks — ready to fill out the linebacker rotation. Whose names do you expect to see most often on the two-deep?

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sammy Stava: Along with Chuck Hicks on the two-deep, I think redshirt freshman Dameon Wilson will make a case for some valuable playing time this season. In the 2021 class, he was ranked as a four-star among ESPN’s Top 300 recruits. I’m not sure if Wilson is ready to exactly make the biggest of impacts quite yet, but if he will be able to get some playing time as a redshirt freshman and provide a steady presence — Wilson could have a bright future ahead of him.

Brandon Kiley: I’m no sure how much I expect Hicks to contribute on defense, but we could certainly see him on special teams. Carmycah Glass was one of the first newcomers to earn his new number, so that could be a sign that he’s impressing early in fall camp. Dameon Wilson seems to be getting some second team reps in camp, and he’s a player who seems to fit the mold for a backup MIKE in this defense. We’ll probably see Nicholson at times, as well.

The truth is the depth at linebacker is probably going to take some time to develop. The Tigers have added a number of young, raw players at the position in the last year or two. Glass is one of those players. He has a chance to be a productive player, but it probably won’t be in year one. The “linebackers’ I would be watching are really the guys playing “star” behind Martez Manuel — especially Daylan Carnell.

Josh Matejka: It feels like this is the second year we’ve heard about Dameon Wilson coming out of camp. Drinkwitz didn’t go into North Carolina and pull him out for nothing — I expect his career begins in earnest this season. Chuck Hicks seems destined to play a role at some point and there are plenty of undeveloped youngsters hungry for a shot. If Blake Baker’s talk of wanting five linebackers at all times rings true, I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot of Wilson and Hicks before anyone else.

Have any questions you want answered about different positions on the roster? Let us know in the comments and we’ll submit them to be included in our coming features!