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MV3: An impact defender and sturdy play-makers lead Mizzou against South Dakota

Our writers were impressed with a number of Tigers, but settled on one impressive defensive performance to lead the way.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG. 31 South Dakota at Missouri

Welcome to the MV3, a weekly piece where Rock M Nation’s staff vote on the three most impactful players in Mizzou’s previous game.

That went just about we expected it to, huh?

While not always the blowout many fans hoped, Mizzou was never in danger against South Dakota during their 35-10 opening week win. The offense, behind a strong first half performance from Brady Cook and a quiet second-half from Sam Horn, roared to a 28-3 by halftime and the defense never gave the Coyotes much room to run outside of one second half touchdown drive. We have a number of people we could spotlight, but our writers chose three that stood out on a warm Thursday night.

1. Johnny Walker, Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG. 31 South Dakota at Missouri

Missouri’s defense — with the exception of the defensive line — has been highly lauded by just about every college football analyst in the country. Part of the reason the line doesn’t get as much love? No one knew who would step up on the ends.

Johnny Walker, Jr. went a long way to quelling some of those fears against South Dakota. The junior from Tampa was a constant presence in South Dakota’s backfield, ending up with a team-leading six tackles, including a half sack and a tackle for loss. Not eye-popping numbers in a vacuum, but they also bely the eye test. By that measure, Walker did everything Mizzou fans wanted to assure he’s the locked in starter across from Darius Robinson.

2. Luther Burden III

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG. 31 South Dakota at Missouri

During the game’s live thread, I made a comment at half time that I’m still standing by: Luther Burden looks and acts like a WR1 right now. It’s unquantifiable, but there were many times in 2022 when it felt like Burden was jittery and unsure of himself, trying to prove too much. Against the Coyotes, Burden had the stature of a dominant wideout, racking up 139 total yards, including 96 on seven catches through the air. Burden registered a handful of explosive plays, capping his night with a jaw-dropping 15-yard screen pass that saw the sophomore plow through a number of Coyote defenders on his way to the end zone. If we’re looking for him to make the “Lovett Leap” in 2023, Thursday night was a good indicator.

3. Cody Schrader

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG. 31 South Dakota at Missouri

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done my fair share of publicly doubting Cody Schrader. His 2022 numbers told the story of a dependable workhorse back without much in the way of explosive speed or game-breaking ability. Thursday night gave me sufficient evidence to suggest that might change this year. Schrader looked every bit stronger and faster than the Coyote defenders, ripping off big run after big run and even showing a little yard-after-contact ability as well.

He only got four more carries than Nathaniel Peat — who I also thought was impressive, for what it’s worth — and made much more out of them, averaging 7.7 yards a touch for a total of 138 yards rushing and a trip to the end zone. If Schrader is going to be the 1A to Peat’s 1B, Thursday night should give us some confidence he’s up to the task.

Others receiving votes: Johnny Walker (17), Cody Schrader (11), Ennis Rakestraw (2), Luther Burden (14), Brady Cook (10), Nathaniel Peat (1)

What about you? Who impressed you most against South Dakota? Let us know in the comments!