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Can Kirby Moore improve Mizzou’s offense this year the way Blake Baker improved the Tiger’s defense last year?

Blake Baker took Missouri’s defense from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the class. Can Kirby Moore have a similar effect for the Tigers’ offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s not often a team has a complete turnaround on one side of the ball the way Missouri’s defense did last year. The Tigers went from a bottom 20 unit nationally in points per game allowed in 2021 (33.8 PPG, 113th) to a top 60 defense nationally in points per game allowed in 2022 (25.2 PPG, 56th). Such an improvement requires change in personnel, coaching and, frankly, some good fortune.

Missouri Defensive Improvement 2022 vs 2021

Category: 2022: 2021:
Category: 2022: 2021:
Points per Game Allowed: 25.2 33.8
Rushing Yards per Game Allowed: 3.65 5.3
Passing Yards per Attempt Allowed: 7.1 8.2
Total Yards per Play Allowed: 5.3 6.4
Total Takeaways: 18 16
Sacks per Game: 2.7 2.2
TFL per Game: 7.2 6.4
3rd down Percentage Allowed: 34.40% 43.40%
Red Zone Scoring Percentage Allowed: 87.50% 92.60%
Red Zone TD Percentage Allowed: 65% 75.90%

All of the above took place for the Tigers. Eli Drinkwitz was able to replace defensive coordinator Steve Wilks with Blake Baker, and the two went to work right away in order to improve that side of the ball.

Mizzou’s Defensive Transfer Snap Counts in 2022

Position: Player: Defensive Snaps (per PFF):
Position: Player: Defensive Snaps (per PFF):
LB Ty'Ron Hopper 763
Safety Joseph Charleston 668
DT Kristian Williams 435
DE DJ Coleman 371
DT Jayden Jernigan 368
CB Dreyden Norwood 312
DT Josh Landry 180
DE Tyrone Hopper 128
CB Marcus Clarke 0
DT Ian Mathews 0

Watching the defense come together was quite the experience. Phil Steele tracks how college football teams hold their opponents to either below or above their opponents’ respective yards per game season average. It’s an interesting — and simple! — concept; it’s a measurement of how many yards a team averages per game when not playing Missouri in relation to how many yards that team gained against Missouri.

Last season, Missouri held its opponents — on average — to 73.5 fewer yards per game than the Tigers’ opponents averaged when not facing Missouri. That was the 12th best defensive yards allowed below average in college football last season, according to Phil Steele. The only power five defenses that held their opponents below their season average by a wider margin than Missouri were Iowa State (143.7), Georgia (113.1), Iowa (94.1), Alabama (92.6), Kentucky (82.4), Oregon State (81.5), Illinois (78.1) and Michigan (74.6).

In other words, Missouri was on a list with the who’s who of college football’s best defenses in 2022.

Meanwhile, Missouri’s offense was... the opposite. The only power five offenses held below their opponents’ season average by a wider margin than Missouri were Georgia Tech, Virginia, Iowa State, California, NC State, Boston College, Kentucky, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Colorado and Rutgers. The Tigers’ opponents held Missouri — on average — 40 yards below their season average in yards per game allowed. It’s not what you want. It needs to get better. Can that side of the ball follow the same formula as the defense did a year ago?

That is certainly the goal.

Drinkwitz has hired an offensive coordinator for the first time in Kirby Moore. Moore is reportedly going to be in charge of the offense with Drinkwitz taking on more of a CEO type of role. The hope being Moore will ignite the offense the way Baker did the defense last season. A coaching change is not enough, though. The old cliche, “it’s about the jimmy’s & joe’s, not the X’s and O’s” is a cliche because it’s true. A coach is only as good as his players.

Losing Dominic Lovett is going to hurt, but the hope is Luther Burden III can take over as the Tigers’ go-to option. Can transfer wide receivers Theo Wease, Jr. (Oklahoma) and Dannis Jackson (Ole Miss) add the necessary depth to the position? Will Marcellus Johnson (Eastern Michigan) be an instant impact offensive lineman the way Kristian Williams immediately improved the interior of the defensive line last season? Can Jake Garcia (Miami) take over as the signal-caller?

The Tigers followed a very specific formula last offseason in order to make significant strides defensively. The Tigers are following a similar blueprint this offseason to improve the offense. Will the results follow suit?