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Let’s preview Cornerbacks: Could Abrams-Draine & Rakestraw form the best CB duo in the country?

It’s time to asses the defensive position group that might be the greatest its ever been.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 25 Arkansas at Missouri

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 that is looking to solidify its claim as the best in Mizzou football history: the cornerbacks.

The Returning Starters

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Missouri at Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
KAD and Ennis Rakestraw Stats

The gentlemen who finished third and fourth in total Missouri defensive snaps in 2022, Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine lay claim to being one of the best cornerback tandems in the country after combining for 24 passes broken up last year. They’re back and solidly the starting corners for the season (barring some unforeseen negative occurrence).

The Backups

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Vanderbilt at Missouri
Dreyden Norwood & Marcus Clarke Stats

Despite being a high school quarterback and barely seeing the field at Texas A&M, Dreyden Norwood was THE third corner on the field for most of the year, providing competent play in the rare instance that KAD or Rake needed to be off the field. Marcus Clarke transferred in a week before fall camp started and it showed; it wasn’t until the back half of the year where he earned the trust of the staff to be the fourth corner but he returns for another tour of duty.

The Freshmen

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Despite starring as a wide receiver in high school, Cahokia product Nicholas DeLoach was recruited to be Mizzou’s next successful receiver-turned-corner project, following in the steps of Kris Abrams-Draine. Measuring at 6’0” and 175 pounds he is the prototypical size that the Drinkwitz staff likes at corner. Fellow freshman corner Shemar McNeil is a towering 6’3”but a lanky 169 pounds. Both will be interesting pieces to deploy once the proven stars are no longer on campus.

BK’s Breakdown:

You’ll be hard pressed to find many better teams with two returning cornerbacks better than Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.

Pro Football Focus tracks a statistic called “forced incompletions.” It is, well, what it sounds like.

From PFF: “Forced incompletion percentage adds context to such figures and provides a clearer picture as to which cornerbacks are making plays on the ball and creating incompletions rather than benefitting from fortunate circumstances such as a dropped pass or inaccurate throw. Coverage grade plays into such clarity, as well.”

Alabama All-SEC cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry was the only SEC corner to force incompletions on a higher percentage of his coverage snaps last season than Rakestraw (min. 300 coverage snaps). Abrams-Draine was seventh in the SEC in the same category last season, forcing an incompletion on approximately 20 percent of his coverage snaps.

Having two proven commodities is a really nice place to start at one of the most difficult positions in the sport. It’s also something that’s been remarkably rare at Mizzou over the years. If there’s one spot on the roster where the Tigers have struggled to develop NFL talent over the years, it’s cornerback. Only two Missouri cornerbacks have heard their name called during the NFL Draft in the past 30 years (Akayleb Evans and E.J. Gaines). They could match that number at the 2024 NFL Draft if Rakestraw and Abrams-Draine put together another quality season.

Those two form the foundation of what was very strong secondary last season. The Tigers had one no good, very bad day defensively last season in which they gave up more than 450 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air against Tennessee. In the other 12 games combined, Missouri allowed fewer than 2,400 passing yards (200 yards per game), 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Tigers’ 129 QB Rating allowed on the season was the second lowest by a Mizzou defense since 2016, bested only by the 2019 group that featured Tyree Gillespie, Joshuah Bledsoe, DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes.

Missouri’s secondary was quite good a year ago. It has the chance to be even better in 2023. Much of that success will be determined by whether or not Rakestraw and Abrams-Draine are able to repeat their success from a year ago.