In just under two weeks since the official end of the 2023 Mizzou Football season, the Tigers have lost five defensive linemen to the NFL Draft. Yeah, that’s more than they generally play on the line at any one time.
The name of the game for Mizzou’s line this season was depth, depth and more depth. The Tigers thrived in their ability to rotate high quality players in and out at will, and that depth will be difficult to replicate moving forward. But Eli Drinkwitz is certainly going to try!
Of Mizzou’s 10 incoming transfers thus far, four qualify as defensive linemen (if you include EDGE Darris Smith.) That includes Sterling Webb, the St. Louis native who returned to his home state after spending two years as a regular at New Mexico State.
Given the fact that Mizzou’s staff built last year’s line mostly through the portal, the addition of anyone in the portal should be cause for excitement. Adding productive players from decent mid-majors — New Mexico State won 10 games and had the country’s 56th defense in SP+ — should be even more exciting! Clearly Drinkwitz and Al Davis see something in Webb to coach up and make him another productive member of D-Line Zou.
Where He Fits: Remember when Realus George, Jr. came to the Mizzou program as a former fullback converted to defensive tackle? I had my doubts as to how he’d fit in, but by the end of his final season he’d logged 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He was a bit undersized, but his athleticism and fresh legs in quick rotation made him a force to be reckoned with for tired offensive linemen.
Webb fits a similar mold as a slightly undersized tackle (though I should mention that he’s taller and bigger than George), but he’s got the athleticism to play in the SEC. In the Aggies’ 31-10 win over Auburn this season, Webb managed one of his 4.5 sacks on the season and you can see in the Aggies’s film that they tried to find creative ways to get him downhill.
When He’ll Play: Webb hasn’t warmed the bench in either of his two collegiate seasons, and I wouldn’t anticipate he’ll start now. Mizzou needs lots of depth at the tackle position and Webb has been a productive tackle at the Division I level. Unless he’s bested in spring ball and fall camp by some of the younger guys on the roster, Webb is coming to play right away.
The Stat Stuff: Webb was a productive tackle for New Mexico State, appearing in 25 games over his first two seasons. He’s registered 47 total tackles, 8.5 TFLs and six total sacks, 4.5 of which came this past season. He also forced two fumbles as a true freshman.
What It All Means: As previously mentioned, Eli Drinkwitz is looking to rebuild his defensive line depth immediately. It will take some time for these new guys to mesh, but it’s easier to deal with chemistry-building when you’ve got guys with the experience and production that Webb brings to the fold.