Welcome to the second installment of this series that will take us from the shenanigans of media days this week all the way up until kickoff against South Dakota. I’m ranking the top 40 footballing Tigers for the 2023 season, counting down five a week as we approach Labor Day weekend.
This idea is blatantly ripped off from a Florida State outlet, Noles247, which did its own ranking. I liked the concept and wanted to do it for our Tigers, so thanks to the team over there for the inspiration.
What defines an important player? Excellent play, of course, especially at important positions. Players who have high ceilings and low floors: high variance could define how a specific position group performs. Players at positions that are thin on the depth chart or looking to rebound after a tough season. Players getting the first opportunity to start at Mizzou, either as young players filling in for veterans or highly-touted transfers.
Last week we kicked it off with our first hodgepodge group of potential contributors and developmental young guys. This week we begin a streak of a few batches that are going to be themed groups of players.
Previous articles in the series:
This week’s theme is: Lotto Tickets. While these players are currently behind others on the depth chart, they have some potential to seize starting jobs, or at least force themselves into a rotation. They will not define Mizzou’s season by themselves, and if they don’t make an impact this year it will not lower the team’s floor. But early arrival could raise the Tigers’ ceiling and certainly set them up for a big 2024. Let’s get into this batch of Lotto Tickets and see if Eli Drinkwitz has any winning numbers.
35: Triston Newson, Freshman (JUCO), Linebacker
Perhaps I’m getting a bit out over my skis here, but I’m really excited about what the JUCO product can bring to the table. Newson will play the Ty’Ron Hopper role in Blake Baker’s defense – so maybe there isn’t much room for him to contribute this fall – wreaking havoc, rushing the passer, creating turnovers, and moving sideline-to-sideline. He is the proverbial “moveable chess piece.” (Side note: aren’t all chess pieces movable? That’s the whole point of the game! Hate that phrase.) Newson was an eye-opener in spring ball, and could spell Hopper and help keep the linebacker rotation fresh. And if Hopper goes down or Newson’s havoc creation forces him onto the field in pass-rush specialist situations, he could make some key plays for the Tigers.
34: Jake Garcia, Sophomore, Quarterback
It will be interesting to see how heavily the former four-star is involved in the quarterback competition this fall. Garcia was not impressive in his playing time at Miami last season, but that was a bad offensive infrastructure. Was he misevaluated as a prospect? Or is there blue-chip play lurking, ready to be developed? At this point, my read from halfway across the country is that the job is between Cook and Horn, but Garcia making a push to start would be a welcome development. The more competition, the better.
33: Tavorus Jones, Redshirt Freshman, Running Back
Another former four-star who is stuck behind two other guys waiting for his turn in the backfield. Cody Schrader has a high floor and is a steady runner with good ball security; Nate Peat flashed some big play potential but is an indecisive runner who put the ball on the turf a few too many times. Both are good but flawed college players. Jones might add a dimension of explosiveness that this room lacks, and I hope he is trusted with some important carries throughout the season. Something like Tyler Badie’s freshman season – where he got about a hundred touches – would be a nice development to see Jones’ playmaking and get ready for 2024.
32: Mekhi Miller, Sophomore, Wide Receiver
We know Luther Burden is going to get a high-volume workload out of the slot. We know Theo Wease is going to get every chance to meet his five-star pedigree at X. After that, the receiver room is kind of a mess. Will Dannis Jackson or Mookie Cooper find a role? Is Peanut Houston ready to be a thing? That would be cool. Is Mekhi Miller ready for a bigger role? Miller can play both the slot and on the outside, and Drinkwitz said at media days the plan is for him to do so. Miller made some really nice catches last season as a true freshman, and if he takes a big step forward along with Burden, that will be huge if some of the reclamation receivers in this room do not work out.
31: Nyles Gaddy, Redshirt Junior, Defensive End
Missouri lost a ton of snaps at defensive end – 1,580 of them, in fact. Johnny Walker and Joe Moore will get first crack at starting there, as they have Power Five experience. Darius Robinson will factor into the mix, setting the edge on early downs before kicking in to rush the passer from the interior on obvious passing downs. Nyles Gaddy will also factor into the mix, and will hopefully replace DJ Coleman’s production on the edge. Like Coleman, Gaddy is a veteran who was a star at the FCS level. Coleman took about half the season to adjust to FBS ball: he totaled three pressures in the first six games, and 17 in the final six. Hopefully Gaddy can make an impact earlier, but if he can contribute to a thin defensive end rotation right off the bat, it will go a long way in supporting the least proven position on this defense.