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Let’s preview Mizzou Football Defensive Tackles

It’s time to take take stock of the deepest position group on defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Missouri at Kansas State

It’s fall camp time! As your Missouri football Tigers begin their fall practices to get ready for the season, Rock M Nation will begin going through each position to take stock of the depth and project the position for the season.

Today we look at the defensive position group with the deepest rotation: the defensive tackles.

The Returning Starters

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Georgia at Missouri
Darius Robinson and Kristian Williams Stats

In terms of snap counts Darius Robinson and Kristian Williams were 1-2 as starters on the interior. Darius Robinson was a multi-year starter and captain so that wasn’t a surprise; what was a surprise was that Williams was a transfer in from Oregon who didn’t earn starts until halfway through the year but proved valuable enough to eventually supplant Jayden Jernigan as the #2 tackle on the line.

The Backups

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
All the stats for backup DTs

Josh Landry and Jayden Jernigan were experienced pieces that transferred in and provided immediate impact, both on the depth chart and the stat sheet. Realus George is a PFF darling that made the most of his 280 snaps and has become a bit of cult follow with the online folks. Ky Montgomery has been injured the past two years and is looking to finally make an impact on the field. Marquis Gracial and Jalen Marshall were hyped as high schoolers coming in but only saw 12 combined snaps in one game last year.

The Freshman

Sam Williams was a late flip from Wake Forest before the early signing period. He’s currently listed at 6’3” and 313 pounds as a freshman but would be a massive surprise if he saw the field at all this year.

BK’s Breakdown:

Alright, can we have a moment of honesty? I’m not buying the Darius Robinson at defensive end experiment. I’m not suggesting he won’t take any snaps on the edge. But the snaps that really matter? Yeah, I’m gonna make a bold prediction that Robinson will be lined up along the interior.

For my Chiefs fans, this reminds me a lot of the Chris Jones experiment at edge. Jones is athletic, but he didn’t have the juice to really dominate off the edge. His value came as an interior disruptor. Eventually, the Chiefs decided it was more valuable to have an “A+” player at defensive tackle and a “C+” starter at defensive end than it was to have Jones serve as a “B” starter off the edge with a “C+” starter replacing Jones along the interior.

Will the Tigers make the same choice with Robinson as the Chiefs did with Jones? We’ll see. My prediction would be that we’ll see Robinson take the majority of his snaps this season at defensive tackle. But the only reason we’re even having this conversation is because Mizzou has excess depth at defensive tackle... And not enough of it at defensive end.

Mizzou got contributions last season along the interior from Robinson, Kristian Williams, Jayden Jernigan, Joshua Landry and Realus George. It’s possible we’ll see Marquis Gracial, Sam Williams, Jalen Marshall or Ky Montgomery add their names to the list of contributors along the interior, as well.

Not hard to see why the Tigers are willing to explore the Robinson move to the edge, right?

Defensive tackle would be my top choice for the deepest position group on the roster. Pass rushers? You’ve got it in Jernigan, Robinson and Williams. Want to stuff the run? Time to put Williams, George, Landry or Robinson on the field. That’s a nice rotation for the Tigers to work with depending on the situation. If you’re looking for something interesting to watch early in the season, I would keep an eye on what we see from Marshall and Gracial if/when they get opportunities in the season-opener against South Dakota.

There isn’t much to say about Missouri’s defensive tackles, honestly. The group is talented and deep. It’s proven. The biggest question surrounding the group is now how they’ll perform, but which guys will see the field, and how often they’ll see it. Robinson watch will be something to keep an eye on. How long will his transition to defensive end last? Does the Tigers’ depth at defensive tackle push Robinson to the edge all season? Or does Robinson’s dominance along the interior take precedent as the games take on greater importance? Time will tell. My bet is on the latter.