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Is Mizzou’s secondary the best in the SEC?

NFL talent is all over Mizzou’s secondary. Can anyone in the SEC compete with their depth?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 season approaches, we’re asking our football staff to answer a series of questions facing the Mizzou Tigers. Read along to get their takes on who should start, who will shine and who will leave their mark on the season.

Forgive me, Eli Drinkwitz, but I think I know what my choice for the best position group on the team would be.

Entering 2023, we’re looking at potentially one of the best Mizzou secondaries of all time. Ennis Rakestraw, Kris Abrams-Draine and Jaylon Carlies are one year away from collecting NFL paychecks. Daylan Carnell is the next defensive star in the SEC. Joseph Charleston is one of the most impactful transfers of the Eli Drinkwitz era. And I haven’t even mentioned Dreyden Norwood!

From top to bottom, Blake Baker and Al Pogue have a unit that is built to succeed at the highest level. So we want to know...

As many as four of Mizzou’s starting defensive backs could be playing in the NFL next season. Is Mizzou’s secondary the best in the SEC?

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: It is oh so tempting to say yes, but I won’t go out on a limb and put this unit over Georgia at this juncture.

With Ennis Rakestraw Jr. and Kris Abrams-Draine, the Tigers have a pair of corners that can stack up with any duo in the country. Between Joseph Charleston, Daylan Carnell (STAR) and Jaylon Carlies at safety, Mizzou has a trio of hard-hitting, instinctive players in the back end. With Dreyden Norwood (CB), Florida State transfer Sidney Williams (S) and 4-star recruit Marvin Burks Jr. (S), there is plenty of depth to work with.

If I was to nitpick and provide the reason for the Tigers still being behind the Bulldogs, it would be the coverage ability of the secondary. Charleston, Carnell and Carlies make a habit of creating highlight-reel plays, both with big hits and interceptions, but they also had some coverage breakdowns that cost this team last season. They figure to improve in that regard in their second season as a trio under Blake Baker, but it remains to be seen if they can become a strength in pass defense.

Again, I’m nitpicking, especially when Rakestraw and Abrams-Draine have the ability to make up for most coverage deficiencies. But, to reach the level that the Georgia secondary has achieved, it takes near perfection.

Quentin Corpuel, Staff Writer: I don’t know if they’re the BEST, but they’re certainly in the upper echelon of both the conference and the nation.

Just like the linebacker question, however, the ranking doesn’t matter a whole lot to me (Sorry again, Josh. Booches can be on me the next time we go).

My favorite thing about the secondary is that there aren’t any weak spots. The only DB of note from 2022 that’s gone is Martez Manuel, but he’s getting replaced by Brian Dawk-I mean Daylan Carnell. Heck, even the backup STAR (Johnson) has looked excellent in fall camp. There aren’t too many other teams in the country with as reliable of a CB duo as KAD and Rakestraw. With Carlies and Charleston making up the last line of defense, airline companies might have to establish a months-long no-fly zone over Columbia, Missouri.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: If you were really sorry, Quentin, you’d buy me Billiards.

I mean... why aren’t they the best overall secondary in the SEC, right? The starting corners are both locked in NFL prospects. The starting safeties have two, maybe three, more. The depth boasts high-level transfers and blue-chip recruits. Like Quentin pointed out, there are no true weak spots. That they’re bringing back everyone outside of Martez Manuel — who was great, but may be ceding his spot to a better overall player —only suggests there are greater levels of cohesion and impact to mine.