Let me say this first: I love Ty’Ron Hopper.
He was an excellent replacement for Blaze Alldredge and was able to do a little bit of everything in his first season in Columbia, leading the team in total tackles and tackles for loss while finishing fifth on the team in sacks and passes defensed.
However: he’s still here. And not in the NFL Draft.
He hasn’t publicly shared what his Draft grade was (which is fine, by the way, it’s not really our business and certainly doesn’t affect us in anyway) but you have to think that it was either a.) low, or b.) not good enough to leave college.
Why is that? For most of the year I thought he was great, although he did seem to disappear in two games off the top of my head. And then, as I was doing postmortem breakdowns of positions, I noticed some very inconsistent production from a guy widely considered one of Missouri’s top three defenders.
Take a look at the season stats:
What’s the first thing that catches your eye?
I’ll tell you mine: havoc production.
Havoc is the name of the game in Blake Baker’s defense and we remember Lil’ Hop the most for his explosive defensive plays. But how many games did he have multiple havoc plays?
The answer is six: Louisiana Tech, Abilene Christian, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Mizzou went 4-2 in those games.
Which means Hopper had one or zero havoc plays in seven games: Kansas State, Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Mexico State, and Wake Forest. Mizzou went 2-5 in those games.
I said this was true for Missouri’s moribund running game and I’ll say it again here: if Hop’s havoc rate wasn’t the canary in the coal mine for a victory or a loss then it was certainly damn close.
In fact, let’s break down his total performance by a couple of different parameters. We’ll start with some simple ones.
Hopper’s Production Before Bye Week (6 games)
Hopper’s Production After Bye Week (7 games)
This is an interesting one because it tells the story of a guy who jumped out of the gate hot and then withered away as the season wore on. Whether that’s on him, on the caliber of opponent, on the savviness of opposing coordinators, or the amount of film on him...who knows. But clearly he was less havoc-productive post-bye week.
Speaking of caliber of opponent:
By Offensive SP+ Ranks
Hopper Against Offenses Ranked 1-25
Hopper Against Offenses Ranked 26-75
Hopper Against Offenses Ranked 75+
I like this breakdown for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds you that Missouri faced six offenses ranked in the SP+ Top 25 and went 2-4 against those teams. Second, it shows a pretty clear dichotomy of havoc production: Hopper had higher overall production with lower havoc against elite offenses and lower overall production with higher havoc against terrible offenses.
But we can take it one step further: let’s break down Hopper’s performance by amount of havoc opposing offenses gave up on the year:
By Opposing Offense Havoc Rate Allowed
Hopper Against Offenses with Havoc Rate Allowed of 10-13%
Hopper Against Offenses with Havoc Rate Allowed of 14-17%
Hopper Against Offenses with Havoc Rate Allowed of 18%+
I love this break down. Hopper’s overall production was fairly low against the best and worst havoc brackets but very healthy in the middle bracket. His havoc rate against the 10-13% bracket was 10%, his havoc rate against the 14-17% bracket was 17%, and his havoc rate against the 18% bracket was a very nice 69%. But, again, percentages are based off of production and while he wasn’t getting the tackles in the top and bottom brackets, when he was making a play it tended to be a disruptive play.
Of course, maybe the simplest way to show it is by wins and losses.
Hopper In Wins
Hopper in Losses
Like I said: canary in a coal mine. Hopper was six tackles more productive in losses but it goes back to that havoc rate. In wins he had a 38.7% havoc rate and in losses it was a 16.4% havoc rate.
The success of a team never rests on one guy, so don’t think that this is 900 words blaming our favorite transfer linebacker for the seven L’s the team took last year.
But I do think it’s safe to say that, when a team can play the way they want, they tend to win games and vice versa in losses.
In my four-part series on the run game, it boiled down thusly: if Missouri’s offense can obtain the national median in rushing success rate, they tend to win. If not, they tend to lose.
The same principle applies here: if Missouri’s most disruptive player can log disruptive plays the team usually wins the game. If he doesn’t, then the team struggles to win.
In a perfect world your team can win games when they’re having an off day or are being forced to counter punch; Missouri was not that team last year. And while I certainly don’t want these principles to hold true in 2023 - with a new OC and basically the entire defense returning with a full year of experience playing together under their belt I’d hope that their recipe to victory can have some more variations to it - I think it’s worth keeping a mental bookmark of these tendencies. Running the ball and defensive havoc: the Eli Drinkwitz football experience.