Like every team in college football, Missouri’s roster has undergone a substantial amount of turnover since the transfer portal opened on December 5.
With five players transferring in to Columbia and 14 transferring out, the Tigers have netted a loss thus far. While that is not always a bad thing (programs typically gain more quality players than they lose), there is still work to be done.
The transfer portal closed on January 18, but it will re-open from May 1-15. In the meantime, let’s evaluate what Eliah Drinkwitz has done in the portal up to this point, and where he needs to be looking over the next couple of months.
Missouri’s Transfer Portal Numbers
(Additions | Subtractions)
QB: +0 | -1
RB: +0 | -1
WR: +2 | -3
TE: +0 | -1
OL: +1 | -1
DL: +2 | -3
LB: +0 | -2
DB: +2 | -3
Remaining Positions Of Need
Returners: Darius Robinson, Josh Landry, Johnny Walker. Jr., Kristian Williams, Realus George, Arden Walker
Returning Production: 136 total tackles, 21.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks
Possible Targets: Clayton Smith (Oklahoma), Mario Eugenio (Cincinnati), Andres Fox (Fresno State)
Frankly, Missouri returned more members of its defensive line than expected. The announced returns of Darius Robinson and Realus George were pleasant surprises, meaning that the interior of the line returns largely intact.
It’s the edge of the line that needs some work. The losses of Isaiah McGuire, DJ Jackson and Trajan Jeffcoat (portal) signals that a retooling job needs to be done. Blake Baker rarely struggled to scheme his players into the backfield with blitz packages in 2022, but he needs some guys that can get to the quarterback on their own.
Johnny Walker Jr. and Arden Walker showed promise late in the season and figure to move into larger roles in 2023, but more competition would only push them to be better. All of the players listed above specialize as edge rushers but struggled to see the field at their prior schools. Maybe a fresh start in a favorable system is exactly what they need.
Main Returners: Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado, Connor Tollison, Armand Membou
Possible Targets: Logan Taylor (Virginia), Marcus Alexander (Oklahoma), Austin Fontaine (Maryland)
This dead horse has been beaten many times. But, yes, there is still more work to be done on this offensive line.
Connor Wood was the only member of the main rotation that was lost this offseason, but the line was easily the weak point of this team last season. So, change is needed.
The semi-surprising return of Javon Foster is a major boost, as he should hold down the left tackle spot again. Xavier Delgado and Connor Tollison have plenty of experience but struggled in the SEC at times. Marcellus Johnson transfers in from Eastern Michigan and should be another quality piece, and Armand Membou should slide into a starting role after a promising freshman campaign.
That being said, I would consider it a failure to not land another lineman in the portal. There are plenty of options out there, and this remains a glaring weakness on this team. Logan Taylor out of Virginia has a monstrous 6’7” frame that could be beneficial in the SEC, while Marcus Alexander could follow in the footsteps of EJ Ndoma-Ogar from Norman. Landing Austin Fontaine, however, would be the biggest win of the offseason.
Returners: Cody Schrader, Michael Cox, BJ Harris, Taj Butts
Returning Production: 824 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, 147 receiving yards
Possible Targets: Michael Drennen (Kentucky), Lyn-J Dixon (Clemson, Tennessee), Len’Neth Whithead (Tennessee)
By no means am I saying that Cody Schrader should not be the primary running back for Missouri next season. In my eyes, he more than earned his starting spot in the backfield towards the end of the 2022 season.
However, behind Schrader, things are fairly hazy. Nathaniel Peat graduated, meaning the next most productive running back was Michael Cox with 46 yards. While Cox is a solid bruiser in the red-zone, he doesn’t have the athleticism to play meaningful snaps outside of that. BJ Harris and Taj Butts were promising prospects out of high school but have yet to really climb the depth chart.
In the SEC, having two running backs that can give each other a break is a luxury that only the great teams have. If Mizzou wants to take pressure off Brady Cook and field a stronger rushing attack in 2023, they need to find someone to complement Schrader.
Michael Drennen or Lyn-J Dixon could provide some explosiveness alongside Schrader’s power-running, while former 4-star recruit Len’Neth Whitehead has three years of eligibility left and could be a developmental player.