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“D-Line Zou” and other early transfer portal takeaways

Missouri’s staff is being picky about their offers, which all seem to be headed to one area.

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

It’s funny. Once the college football season wrapped, I imagined I’d have a moment to catch my breath.

Mizzou Football turned in its best season in a decade this year, rolling their way to 10 wins — with only losses to the two-time reigning champ and the likely Heisman winner to sully their marks — a Cotton Bowl berth, and multiple year-end SEC awards. The content machine was rolling this year, and I had earmarked the post-Thanksgiving, pre-bowl season month as a step back.

And yet, here I am, checking my previously abandoned Twitter feed several times a day just to get a whiff of news from the transfer portal. We’re only three days into “Portal SZN” and it’s been utter chaos. Some of the best players in the country are uprooting their lives for “greener” pastures, and entire teams (Mizzou’s bowl opponent included!) are reeling in the wake. We’ve been doing daily, even hourly, updates on our official Transfer Tracker, which you really should have bookmarked at this point.

After nearly 72 hours of portal mania, let’s take a 10,000 foot view and see what we can parse from Mizzou’s early activity.

A Focus on D-Line Zou

NCAA Football: Missouri at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

One of Eli Drinkwitz’s two stated priorities for the transfer portal, the defensive line has been the Tiger’s top focus in the portal’s early days. Seven of the 14 players we’ve listed on the Transfer Tracker are defensive lineman, and most of Mizzou’s official offers have gone out to these players.

Missouri could be looking for two to four new linemen from the portal, with an emphasis on defensive tackles. Joey Slackman, Aeneas Peebles and Taurean Carter are three early targets on the interior. Don’t forget, they’ll also add Williams Nwaneri next season. Assuming the staff can bring in a few impact veterans, defensive line shouldn’t take too much of a step down from its strong 2023 performance.

Replacing Cody

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

Update: Hours after this post was published, Georgia State’s Marcus Carroll Jr. announced he’ll take an official visit to Columbia this coming weekend.

Carroll rushed for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season, along with totaling 234 yards through the air. He, along with Cody Schrader, was a Doak Walker Award semi-finalist.

Original Post: That subhead is a bit of a misnomer. After all, no one can replace Cody Schrader following his magical senior season. Even discounting his Hollywood narrative, expecting another running back to step in and compete for the Doak Walker Award? That’s a high bar.

The name on everyone’s Twitter fingers is Trevor Etienne, the rising junior out of Florida. It makes sense. Florida is mired in mediocrity under Billy Napier, and Etienne would immediately become one of the top targets in the portal. We know Eli Drinkwitz and Luther Burden have followed Etienne on social media, so there’s at least a little smoke. But Etienne has yet to put his name in the portal, and it’s all speculation until that happens.

The good news is, there are plenty of capable backs available in the portal at present. Armoni Goodwin, AJ Green, Rocket Sanders, Mario Anderson and Tre Bradford all have SEC experience. Reggie Love III is a local kid who had some success at Illinois. After overseeing two of the top three rushing seasons in program history, Drinkwitz should have his pick of players to be the next man up behind center.

Homecoming Pride?

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

One of the earliest rumors our staff heard, even before the portal opened, was the fact that St. Louis native Toriano Pride might be available after two impressive years at Clemson. The timing is fortuitous as the Tigers are set to lose both Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw to the NFL Draft.

Mike Farrell has reported that Pride is asking not to be contacted by college coaches, which indicates he may have already chosen his destination. It doesn’t take a super sleuth to connect the dots here. Missouri is a program on the rise with two available starting slots at corner, and NIL opportunities are plentiful for local stars. It’s not finished until the papers are signed, but we feel pretty good about Mizzou’s chances of bringing Mr. Pride home.