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How Will Missouri Generate Pass Rush in 2023?

Blake Baker’s defense will be replacing almost all of their proven edge rushers. Who can step up, and what players at other positions will be getting after the passer this fall?

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

Missouri skirted disaster in the spring transfer portal window, with mostly backups and names way, way down the depth chart hopping ship. Only one player who went through spring ball and was expected to factor heavily into the rotation left, and that was rising sophomore defensive end Arden Walker. With Walker’s departure, Missouri has now lost their five edge defenders that saw the most pass rush reps in the 2022 regular season, from Isaiah McGuire’s 267 down to Arden Walker’s 68.

Things look dire, but a pair of Power Five transfers and a returning breakout candidate will be expected to step up. But coordinator Blake Baker showed a predilection for pressuring passers from all positions, so as an exercise, let’s examine how Missouri might speed up opposing quarterbacks this fall. We will use PFF charting data to look at how often each position group was sent on a pass rush last season and how they did, and what players might replicate those responsibilities in 2023.

Defensive Tackles


Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Darius Robinson 257 254 75.5
Kristian Williams 217 216 64.4
Jayden Jernigan 199 197 58.9
Realus George 137 136 70.3
Josh Landry 91 91 62.1

Obviously if the quarterback is dropping back, the big fellas are gonna eat. In terms of returning production, this position group returns every rotation player from last year. Darius Robinson is going to be one of Missouri’s best players and should crop up on any preseason all-conference lists that are chosen by discerning observers. He will lead a deep and experienced group that will be responsible for collapsing the interior of offensive lines and creating lanes for Baker’s creative schemes.

Defensive ends


Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Isaiah McGuire 287 267 82
Trajan Jeffcoat 232 217 62.1
DJ Coleman 205 193 74.4
Tyrone Hopper 75 69 57
Arden Walker 75 68 58.2
Johnny Walker Jr 62 57 73.8

Okay, here we have the impetus for this piece and the only position group on this defense not overstocked with returning production. McGuire, Coleman, and Hopper finished their collegiate careers, Arden Walker and Trajan Jeffcoat entered the portal, and Johnny Walker Jr was the last man standing. He will anchor the position next season, along with Joe Moore, a redshirt junior transfer from Arizona State. Moore’s 2022 was eerily similar in PFF metrics to that of Jeffcoat; hopefully he proves to be on an upward trajectory, unlike Jeffcoat who has been fading as his career progresses. It is also worth noting that the staff had Robinson experimenting with playing defensive end during spring ball — although that would likely be a lineup to use against rushing situations.

Austin Firestone, a former three-star prospect in the 2022 class who transferred in from Northwestern, played 44 snaps last year for the Wildcats and is certain to see a sizeable increase in playing time. Another portal addition seems possible; while there are a lot of bodies available, there is really only one instant-impact edge rusher available, the kind that can replace Isaiah McGuire. That’s Isaac Ukwu, a seventh-year first-team All-Sun Belt pass-rushing menace from the James Madison Dukes, and Missouri offered almost immediately after he entered the portal.

A pair of names to watch in preseason fall camp: firstly, we have Jahkai Lang, an early enrollee from the signing class of 2023 who earned significant reps in spring ball. Secondly, keep an eye on former four-star recruit DJ Wesolak from the 2022 signing class. Wesolak got a cup of coffee last fall as a true freshman; but he switched from defensive end to linebacker midseason, despite playing with his hand in the dirt in high school and having a strong pedigree as a pass-rusher. It would be a boon to this position group if he is able to shoulder some specialist duties on obvious passing downs.



Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Ty'Ron Hopper 426 105 84.3
Chad Bailey 304 62 66.4

Again, more returning production, with both Hopper, Bailey, and backup Dameon Wilson returning, and erstwhile Wyoming transfer Chuck Hicks could finally suit up for Missouri this fall. One oddity here is Chad Bailey: he rushed the passer 62 times last fall, but a full half of those reps came in just two games, the Tennessee and Wake Forest games. Both of those opponents had veteran quarterbacks in high-octane option offenses that put up big numbers against the Tigers, and it’s possible Bailey’s pass-rushing numbers are inflated by Baker turning to him as “break glass in case of emergency” usage while searching for answers as those games got away.

The name to know is 2022 Junior College All-American Triston Newson. The newcomer was on campus for spring ball and might have been the defensive MVP in just his first few months on campus. Mizzou had a rather anonymous spring camp, and a more publicized practice session would have drawn more attention for Newson. He earned rave reviews from teammates and coaches alike, and is developing a reputation as a havoc machine. Drinkwitz might have uncovered a diamond in the rough here, and I’m sure Blake Baker is excited to unleash him this fall.

Defensive backs


Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Name Pass plays Pass rushes PFF Grade
Martez Manuel 292 42 70.8
Daylan Carnell 241 24 57.7
Jaylon Carlies 428 18 60.4
Ennis Rakestraw Jr 390 13 49.3

Carlies and Rakestraw check in with essentially a token blitz per game; I almost didn’t even bother including them.

One fascinating dynamic for 2023 is the use of the “STAR” position. Martez Manuel is off to the world-champion Kansas City Chiefs after a great career in Columbia, and he excelled getting after the passer from that nickel/overhang hybrid position. Carnell was not nearly as effective in that role and was a much better defensive weapon in coverage. Sidney Williams, the transfer safety from Florida State, was not asked to rush the passer during his stint in Tallahassee. Will any defensive back on Missouri’s roster be able to replicate the production Manuel gave them rushing the passer from the secondary?

While the edge rushers will be completely changing over, Missouri has some potential breakout players at that position to replace the departed production. Blake Baker showed last year that he wants to get pressure from all over the field, and at those other positions, he has plenty of intriguing talent to deploy to speed up opposing passers.