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Window Shopping: Positions for Missouri football to pursue during this transfer cycle

The transfer portal will open up on December 4th, meaning that chaos is just around the corner.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, the transfer portal.

Controversial, beneficial, harmful, irregular, beautiful, chaotic, rewarding, disappointing. All of these are terms that are tossed around during nearly every conversation about the portal.

Since its inception in Fall 2018, the transfer portal has taken the college football world by storm. We’ve seen stars emerge from it, such as Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter, Texas’ Quinn Ewers, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix and Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman, to name a few.

However, the grass is also not always greener on the other side.

College Football HQ analyzed the portal following the 2020-21 offseason, and the numbers were revealing. Only 54% of athletes in the portal successfully enrolled at another school, with 33% not being able to find a new home. But, with the number of portal entrants nearly doubling from 2020 to 2021 and continuing to grow in the years since, those numbers clearly did not deter anybody.

Mizzou has experienced its fair share of success in the transfer portal. Florida transfer Ty’Ron Hopper was a key addition to the 2022 class, as was DT Josh Landry (Baylor), DT Jayden Jernigan (OK St.) and S Joseph Charleston (Clemson). Oh, and some guy named Cody Schrader transferred in during that offseason as well.

In 2023, as the program continued to gain traction on the recruiting trail, Mizzou found even more success. Highly-touted receiver Theo Wease Jr. joined the Tigers from Oklahoma, as did defensive ends Nyles Gaddy (Jackson St.) and Austin Firestone (NW), safety Tre’Vez Johnson (Florida) and linebacker Sidney Williams (FSU). Cam’Ron Johnson (Houston) and Marcellus Johnson (EMU) joined the roster to bolster the offensive line depth as well.

With the transfer portal opening up on Dec. 4, it’s time for Eliah Drinkwitz and his coaching staff to window shop. The New Year’s Six caliber roster that Missouri fielded in 2023 is set to lose a handful of key contributors to the NFL, meaning that holes will open up on the depth chart.

Therefore, I took an early look at what positions Drinkwitz and Co. will attempt to target in the portal, and which prospects may be a good fit in COMO.

Note: The ‘presumed returners’ in this do not account for the fact that any player on the roster is able to transfer. More than likely, a handful of those returners will not, in fact, return.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas
A Missouri team without Cody Schrader will almost be unrecognizable.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back

Presumed Departures: Cody Schrader, Nathaniel Peat

Presumed Returners: Tavorus Jones, Jamal Roberts

Schrader and his SEC-leading 1,499 rushing yards will leave the Tigers this year. His presence, both on the field and off of it, will be sorely missed. Peat has also exhausted his eligibility.

Jones and Roberts are two promising young backs who have bided their time and appear set to take over for Schrader and Peat next season. However, they are inexperienced and unproven, and if there is anything to know about the SEC, it’s that you need more than one quality running back to survive.

Thus, Drinkwitz may turn to the portal to reel in a more seasoned option that can provide a similar boost to the offense that Schrader did. In terms of the type of tailback the staff will look for, I’d bet on running back coach Curtis Luper and Kirby Moore targeting players who are used to the stretch zone scheme and have the required vision and quickness to have success within that style.

Potential Targets:

Treshaun Ward | Graduate Student | Kansas State

Formerly of Florida State and K-State, Ward has over 2,000 yards of offense and 20 TDs to his name in college. He’s an explosive runner who operates best on the edge, and the Wildcats ran plenty of stretch zone in their offensive system. The general consensus is that Ward is far more talented than his past production suggests and is due for a breakout campaign.

Donald Chaney Jr. | Junior | Miami

Chaney Jr. was a highly-touted 4-star recruit out of Balen Jesuit Prep in Miami, and after an up-and-down start with the Canes, he put forth a solid 2023 campaign. Amidst a loaded backfield, Chaney ran for 478 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry. He has impressive burst in the open field and is a strong 5-foot-10, 210 lbs.

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day
Just look at that smile.
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line

Presumed Departures: Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado, Marcellus Johnson

Presumed Returners: Armand Membou, Cam’Ron Johnson, Connor Tollison, Logan Reichert

Those aren’t all of the potential returners for Missouri’s offensive line, but they represent the four players who will start in all likelihood. The Tigers have anchors to build around in Membou and Tollison, and if Johnson can take a step forward in ‘24, then the O-line will have three reliable starters.

Reichert has been tabbed as the next guy up on the line and has great promise, but everybody’s first year of starting up front in the SEC is up-and-down. Depth up front will be a question mark, as will leadership. Foster and Delgado were synonymous with the O-line for years and were lead voices in the locker room. Can Tollison and Membou fill that void, and will some other player enter the fold from the transfer portal to add needed experience?

With the versatility of Membou, only the center and right guard positions appear to be set in stone for Mizzou next year. Thus, every option is available and will be welcomed with open arms.

Potential Targets:

Marcus Hicks | Graduate Student | Oklahoma

Hailing from Wichita, Hicks could step in and follow in the footsteps of EJ Ndoma-Ogar in terms of transferring from OU to Mizzou as an offensive lineman. Of course, Ndoma-Ogar just entered the portal himself, so Hicks would likely want to pursue a more rewarding career with the Tigers. Regardless, he’s more than experienced at the collegiate level, and Hicks could certainly challenge for a starting spot at tackle next year, more than likely opposite Membou.

Kahlil Benson | Senior | Indiana

Perhaps Mr. Benson, following a lengthy career in Bloomington, would like to move a bit closer to his home of Southaven, Miss. Ever so slightly closer, that is, although he would have the chance to play in his home state when the Tigers travel to take on Mississippi State next season. Benson left the Hoosiers amidst the firing of Tom Allen.

He’s been fairly versatile and could come in and take up one of the guard positions opposite Cam’Ron Johnson, or perhaps he challenges for a spot at tackle.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Kentucky
This duo absolutely devastated opposing O-lines.
TJordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

Presumed Departures: Darius Robinson, Realus George Jr., Kristian Williams, Josh Landry, Jayden Jernigan

Presumed Returners: Johnny Walker Jr., Nyles Gaddy, Austin Firestone, Joe Moore

I cheated a bit and grouped these position groups together, but they both needed the help.

The turnover on the defensive line this offseason will be immense. The loss of Robinson not only takes away plenty of production but also means that this team loses a major leader in the locker room.

Then, in all likelihood, the entire four-deep at the defensive tackle spot will be gone. Kristian Williams still has a year of eligibility remaining, and it’s 50/50 on whether he will return or not at this point. If he does, then that’s a veteran presence who can spearhead a group of newbies. If not, the block-eaters in the middle have been unsung heroes on this team for two years now, and their absence will be felt heavily.

Walker Jr. will return and lock down one of the defensive end spots. He’s someone you can build around. Gaddy is poised to take over the other spot, with Moore and Firestone backing them up. However, more quality depth could certainly be added.

At defensive tackle, the names are unproven and inexperienced. Williams Nwaneri will arrive with his 5-star billing and figures to make an instant impact, but relying on a freshman to spearhead the middle would be tough sledding. Thus, Drinkwitz and this staff will likely search for at least one experienced interior lineman to bolster the new-look rotation.

Potential Targets:

Jahfari Harvey | Graduate Student | Miami

Harvey was a 4-star recruit hailing from Fort Pierce, Fl. when he joined the Canes in 2019. He played in a rotational role for Miami during his time, peaking at 31 total tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2022. At 6-foot-4, 258 lbs., he’s got the size to be an SEC pass-rusher and plenty of experience. On top of that, Blake Baker spent a brief period of time with the Canes in ‘19 and ‘20, so he has familiarity with Harvey.

NaNa Osafo-Mensah | Graduate Student | Notre Dame

Osafo-Mensah out of Fort Worth, Tx. had a productive career with the Irish, recording 48 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five sacks and a forced fumble. He’s already got two degrees to his name; now he’s just trying to play some high-quality football. Well, he can find that in the SEC, and he could immediately become a day-one starter at tackle for the Tigers.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri
Those Tennessee fans are having a great time.
Kylie Graham-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Back

Presumed Departures: Kris Abrams-Draine, Ennis Rakestraw (?), Joseph Charleston, Jaylon Carlies

Presumed Returners: Daylan Carnell, Tre’Vez Johnson, Marvin Burks Jr., Phillip Roche, Dreyden Norwood, Sidney Williams

I also grouped the cornerbacks and safeties into one category for ease of understanding.

The biggest wild card here is obviously Rakestraw, who could return after an injury-plagued 2023 season although he has probably put together enough film to land on an NFL roster. If he does come back, one of the CB spots is settled on the opposite side of Norwood. If not, there is a void.

The safety situation is full of youthful talent that has flashed great potential this season. Burks and Roche have played some significant snaps this season and are poised for much more in ‘24. Williams was a positive addition from Florida State, and Tre’Vez Johnson has been a solid contributor as well. And, of course, Daylan Carnell and his explosive tackling will be back for another run.

Safety is mostly set, although some added experience from a Power 5 player would not hurt. Cornerback, on the other hand, is a position of need.

Potential Targets:

Jalen Geiger | Graduate Student | Kentucky

The former Wildcat entered the transfer portal on Nov. 27. Geiger suffered a knee injury in 2022 that caused him to miss all of that season, and he has appeared in five games in ‘23. He was a 3-star recruit out of high school in Columbia, Sc. and has plenty of SEC playing experience, the key for him is to just stay healthy.

Phillip Dunnam | Sophomore | Indiana

Dunnam is yet another result of the firing of Tom Allen, as he swiftly entered the portal right after. One of Allen’s major recruiting wins, Dunnam was a 4-star safety out of Florida and played sparingly in 2022 before coming into his own this past season. He recorded 53 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups in a breakout campaign, making him one of the most sought-after players in the portal. With his upside, Dunnam could step in and become a day-one starter.