Welcome to the next installment of this series that will take us from the dog days of summer 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 their 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.
Previous articles in the series:
Now that we’ve cracked the top 15, we are moving away from batching players together to create themes, and just listing the best and most important Tigers for the upcoming season. These are your star players, ones with high expectations and room to grow. Their performance, their leadership, and their health will determine both the team’s floor and the team’s ceiling.
15: Cody Schrader, Graduate, Running Back
It’s easy to focus on what Cody Schrader is not – a gamebreaker, a blue-chip recruit, an NFL prospect – and forget what he is: a tough runner, a secure ballcarrier, and a locker room leader. The former Truman State Bulldog took over the RB1 role down the stretch last season, and his running style, while limited, was the best fit for Eli Drinkwitz’s preferred inside zone run scheme. A good Missouri ground game in 2023 will be dependent on a better offensive line and a more consistent effort from Nathaniel Peat, but Schrader will be an important piece of that equation, too.
14: Kris Abrams-Draine, Junior, Cornerback
13: Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Junior, Cornerback
We will take these two as a tandem, obviously. Missouri has received a lot of preseason hype for their secondary, and while the safety room is deep and versatile, the key is this excellent cornerback tandem. Both players spurned transfer portal opportunities or mid-round NFL draft consideration to return to Columbia. Together they are an excellent duo: Rakestraw is fiery and flashy on the field and used on the outside and in the slot; Abrams-Draine is more steady on the field and more stout against the run and never strays from the perimeter. The pair gives the Tigers individual matchup advantages against almost every team on the schedule.
12: Ty’Ron Hopper, Senior, Linebacker
Ty’Ron Hopper arrived at Missouri as part of a wave of Power Five transfers on defense, and immediately became one of the best players on the team. Hopper is a fast and creative ballhawk who brings a critical level of havoc production in Blake Baker’s aggressive scheme. His sideline-to-sideline play is just as important as the work he does infiltrating the backfield. However, if Missouri’s defense is going to be even better this season, Hopper could help them take a step forward by being more consistent on a weekly defense. Our own Nate Edwards wrote this spring how Hopper’s production vanished in some games; if he can play at his best level in all twelve efforts, Mizzou’s defense could be even stronger in 2023.
11: Harrison Mevis, Senior, Kicker
Oh, Thiccer. How we cursed your choking ways in Auburn, then lauded your clutch makes one week later against Georgia. How miserable it was to watch you shrug off taking warmup kicks, and how joyful it was to watch you strut after a 50-yard bomb. Your consistency went down last year compared to your first two seasons. You are a weapon for this team, and the team needs you to get back to that level of consistency.
Previously in this series:
40: DJ Wesolak, Redshirt Freshman, Linebacker
39: Connor Tollison, Sophomore, Center
38: Riley Williams, Junior, Punter
37: Dreyden Norwood, Redshirt Sophomore, Cornerback
36: Tyler Stephens, Senior, Tight End
35: Triston Newson, Freshman (JUCO), Linebacker
34: Jake Garcia, Sophomore, Quarterback
33: Tavorus Jones, Redshirt Freshman, Running Back
32: Mekhi Miller, Sophomore, Wide Receiver
31: Nyles Gaddy, Redshirt Junior, Defensive End
30: Xavier Delgado, Graduate, Offensive Guard
29: Josh Landry, Graduate, Defensive Tackle
28: Jayden Jernigan, Senior, Defensive Tackle
27: Joe Moore, Junior, Defensive End
26: EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Junior, Offensive Guard
25: Joseph Charleston, Senior, Safety
24: Realus George, Graduate, Defensive Tackle
23: Jaylon Carlies, Senior, Safety
22: Kristian Williams, Senior, Defensive Tackle
21: Chad Bailey, Senior, Middle Linebacker
20: Ryan Hoerstkamp, Sophomore, Tight End
19: Bence Polgar, Graduate, Center
18: Dannis Jackson, Junior, Wide Receiver/Mookie Cooper, Junior, Wide Receiver/Demariyon “Peanut” Houston, Senior , Wide Receiver
17: Marcellus Johnson, Graduate, Offensive Tackle
16: Nathaniel Peat, Graduate, Running Back