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This is the best Missouri secondary we’ve seen since...?

The Tigers return nearly all of their production from one of the better pass defenses in the country. What is the ceiling for this unit in 2023?

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

The school once tabbed ‘D-Line Zou’ is going to be best known for its defensive backs in 2023. This is quite the turn of events for a program whose best safeties throughout the 2010s were... Braylon Webb and Ian Simon?

Missouri is trying to create a new identity defensively. The Tigers started this defensive back evolution with the recruitment and development of cornerbacks Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. It continued with the development of safeties Jaylon Carlies and Daylan Carnell. And it was taken to a new level with the additions of Joseph Charleston, Marcus Clarke and Dreyden Norwood through the transfer portal last season.

That was, apparently, not enough. Missouri’s coaching staff dipped back into the transfer portal once again this offseason to add Sidney Williams (Florida State) and Tre’Vez Johnson (Florida) to an already stacked secondary.

Missouri’s secondary suddenly looks like it’s more than just a team strength. This unit has the potential to be among the best the Tigers have put on the field in years.

The Tigers had one no good, very bad day defensively last season in which they gave up more than 450 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air against Tennessee. In the other 12 games combined, Missouri allowed fewer than 2,400 passing yards (200 yards per game), 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Tigers’ 129 QB Rating allowed on the season was the second lowest allowed since 2016, bested only by the 2019 group that included Tyree Gillespie, Joshuah Bledsoe, DeMarkus Acy, Christian Holmes, Ronnell Perkins and Khalil Oliver.

A great secondary is much like a great offensive line. It’s as much about not having a weak link as it is having any one dominant individual player. It’s also hugely important to develop chemistry and communication among the group in order to build on previous success.

Is now a good time to mention Missouri is returning 76 percent of its tackles and 96 percent of its passes defended from last season?

SEC returning players with the most passes defended in 2022:

  1. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama (16)
  2. Marcellas Dial, South Carolina (15)
  3. Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas (14)
  4. Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri / Hudson Clark, Arkansas / Deantre Prince, Ole Miss (12)
  5. Daylan Carnell, Missouri (9)

SEC returning players with the most interceptions in 2022:

  1. Dwight McGlothern, Arkansas (4)
  2. Daylan Carnell, Missouri / Jaylon Carlies, Missouri / Marcellas Dial, South Carolina / De’Rickey Wright, Vanderbilt (3)

Missouri’s best pass defenses since joining the SEC took place in 2015 and 2019; the Tigers allowed 5.7 yards per pass attempt and an average of less than 170 passing yards per game in 2015, and the 2019 unit allowed 6.2 passing yards per attempt while giving up just under 180 passing yards per game.

Missouri’s secondary was quite good a year ago. It has the chance to be even better in 2023. Could it reach the heights of 2015 and 2019? That’s a lot to ask, but the Tigers’ depth and talent makes even the outrageous feel possible.