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How Mizzou’s Transfer Portal Additions Can Improve the ‘24 Roster

The Tigers have had plenty of success in the portal in years’ past. So, how will this new class of transfers shake out?

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Appalachian State Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The initial transfer portal cycle has come and gone, and with it was a flurry of names landing in different spots all over the country.

Mizzou managed to bring in seven transfers during this period, with a heavy emphasis on the defensive side of the ball. Key positional needs were filled with some of the top names out there, making this a highly successful cycle for Eliah Drinkwitz and his staff. The portal will open again in April for a 15-day period, but a lot of the main damage was done in the December cycle.

Let’s take a look at what some of these guys have accomplished in the past and how they can contribute to this 2024 squad.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Toriano Pride Jr.

Junior | Cornerback | East St. Louis, Il.

5-foot-11, 190 lbs.

Former School: Clemson

Career Stats: 36 total tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 9 PBUs, 1 INT

Notable PFF Stat: Has only allowed one completion over 12 yards

Projection: Starting CB opposite Dreyden Norwood

Naturally, a void would be left at cornerback given the departures of Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine to the NFL Draft. Therefore, that spot became a target position for Mizzou in the transfer portal, and Eliah Drinkwitz and Co. managed to land one of the top available DBs early in the process.

Pride is used to being a Tiger, as he appeared in 26 games and started in three at Clemson. He was a mainstay in the secondary rotation but could not carve out a starting role for himself in a fairly loaded DB room. Still, Pride has the potential to step in and start at cornerback in this league due to his athleticism.

The former 4-star isn’t the ideal size for an SEC cornerback at 5-foot-11, 190 lbs., but Pride makes up for that with top-tier speed that stems from him running track and playing on both sides of the ball in high school. He’s also played in multiple spots in the secondary (boundary, nickel, slot) and is a sure-tackler in the open field.

Most importantly, he’s a bona fide playmaker:

He still has a ways to go in terms of technique, but with how KAD (who has a similarly smaller frame) and Rakestraw developed over their times at Columbia, Pride has the potential to follow in their footsteps and find his way to the next level.

And, I’m also interested to see if he can create more turnovers/game-changing plays than KAD and Rakestraw did. The primary reason they lacked in that category was due to opposing teams not taking many risks against them, but Pride has the potential to become a difference maker when it comes to taking the ball away.

On top of that, the former East St. Louis Flyer will now be playing closer to home and alongside a fellow alumni in Luther Burden III. Pride also drew a comparison to current Kansas City defensive back Trent McDuffie from 247 Sports National Recruiting Analyst Cooper Petagna (there’s a Chiefs reference for ya).

Pride said that he was seeking “opportunity” when he entered the transfer portal. Well, he’s found that in CoMo.

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Carroll

Senior | Running Back | Union City, Ga.

5-foot-10 | 210 lbs.

Former School: Georgia State

Career Stats: 451 carries, 2,136 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC, 261 receiving yards, 22 TDs

Notable PFF Stat: Forced 45 missed tackles in 2023 (Tied for 40th in the nation with Cody Schrader and others)

Projection: Rotational Starter, 12+ carries per game

Mizzou hit on another positional need by landing Marcus Carroll, one of the most productive and experienced running backs in the portal. With Cody Schrader and Nathaniel Peat exhausting their eligibility, the Tigers needed to land at least one RB to join youngsters Tavorus Jones and Jamal Roberts. Carroll became that guy.

Well-rounded is the best way to describe Carroll. From his freshman to senior year, the Union City-native saw an uptick in touches and yards, and he put forth his most complete performance in ‘23 with over 1,300 yards on the ground and 200 receiving yards. The highlight of his last season with GSU came in a 44-27 loss to Georgia Southern, a game in which he ran for 208 yards on 7.4 YPC.

Carroll is built like a rock and well-suited to get tough yardage in the SEC, but he’s also got some solid burst once he hits a hole:

Carroll formed a dangerous duo with dual-threat QB Darren Grainger in the Panther backfield, and he’s used to working within a fast-paced, big-play oriented offense that doesn’t get under center a whole lot. Thus, he should be comfortable within Kirby Moore’s scheme and find plenty of room to operate in the open field. It goes without saying that Schrader was an incredible back that will be sorely missed, but Carroll has the potential to turn some of Schrader’s 10-20 yard gains into touchdowns given his superior speed.

Carroll certainly has some work to do in terms of learning the stretch zone style, but that should be little issue for a guy with as much experience as him. Overall, he could easily become yet another 1,000-yard back under Drinkwitz given his versatility and physical traits.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Cayden Green

Sophomore | Offensive Guard | Lee’s Summit, Mo.

6-foot-5 | 316 lbs.

Former School: Oklahoma

Career Stats: 11 appearances, 5 starts

Notable PFF Stat: Picked up only five penalties as a true freshman

Projection: Starting left guard or left tackle

The Lee’s Summit North pipeline grows stronger with this commitment. Green will join former teammates Williams Nwaneri and Armand Membou in CoMo as graduates from the suburban KC high school, and I’m sure they’ll have some fun battles during spring and fall camp.

That storyline aside, Green was yet another high-profile commitment at a position of great need. A 4-star prospect out of high school, Green was originally listed as an offensive tackle but played left guard for the Sooners in 2023. He slowly but surely worked his way up the depth chart in Norman, starting in OU’s final four games of the season after proving that he had what it takes to compete at this level as a true freshman.

First and foremost, Green fills a void on the roster. With Xavier Delgado gone, the left guard spot was open for the taking, and that’s exactly where Green lined up at Oklahoma. There have been rumors that he left OU in order to play tackle, and wouldn’t you know it, the LT spot is also up for grabs with the departure of Javon Foster. Green also has someone he knows well in Membou to mentor and ease him into the program and O-line culture.

In terms of his on-field ability, the sky appears to be the limit. Green has great size to work with, consistently showcases some above average athleticism and is a force when he gets his hands on a defender. He should fit into the zone blocking scheme that Mizzou runs well, and I can certainly see him blossoming into a star as early as this upcoming season given the improvement that the O-line showed last year. The culture under the guidance of Brandon Jones appears to be very strong, and I’d imagine that Green will fit right in and improve leaps and bounds just like others did in ‘23.

Green doesn’t necessarily change much about the group up front, but he does bring in an aspect of untapped potential. Foster and Delgado were reliable and talented in their own right, but they weren’t guys that normally jumped out at you in watching film. Green and Membou, on the other hand, have moments where they are absolutely dominant. Consistency will be the key for that duo in ‘24, and it will be interesting to see how Jones evaluates Green’s spot along the line compared to how OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh did last year.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Texas Christian at Georgia Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Darris Smith

Junior | Defensive End/Linebacker | Baxley, Ga.

6-foot-5 | 240 lbs.

Former School: Georgia

Career Stats: 6 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup

Notable PFF Stat: Lined up outside the tackle’s shoulder on 34 of 35 snaps played

Projection: Backup to Triston Newson, Passing-Down Edge Rusher

Amidst all of the Early National Signing Day noise on Dec. 20, 2023, Darris Smith committed to Mizzou. A former 4-star prospect, Smith briefly saw the field in both ‘22 and ‘23 for the Bulldogs, appearing in 16 total games.

Much of that can be attributed to Georgia having a loaded defensive roster that generally doesn’t lend to freshmen receiving a plethora of snaps, especially in the front seven. Regardless, Smith is a high-upside player that was in search of more playing time on another national contender, and he found that in Mizzou.

He also ran track and field and played basketball at Appling High School. And, as this post details, Smith used to work with the defensive backs at UGA:

Unique, rare, freakish, impressive; all words to describe the kind of athlete Smith is.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of adding Smith to the roster is bringing in a guy who has championship-caliber experience. He played in both of UGA’ playoff games last season and knows what it takes to win a title from both a training and commitment standpoint. Ideally, his background in Athens rubs off on the rest of the team and can be a small boost in this program’s quest to take that next step into the realm of CFB’s elite.

I would also add that Smith could add some needed burst off the edge, Darius Robinson and Johnny Walker Jr. were great last season, but they did most of their work thanks to their power and technique. Smith can be a great change-of-pace with his speed and length that takes opposing tackles off-guard.

I mean, he just stiff arms this poor UT-Martin lineman on this play:

He likely won’t take away any starts from Triston Newson, but Smith will be a quality backup at linebacker that can also be a QB-hunter on pass-down scenarios. With Nyles Gaddy recently declaring for the draft, a reliable pass rusher opposite Walker will need to emerge, and Smith could certainly be that guy. I expect Blake Baker to have a field day with how he schemes the rangy hybrid into his scheme.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Miami Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Flagg

Senior | Linebacker | Houston, Tx.

6-foot | 230 lbs.

Former School: Miami

Career Stats: 179 total tackles, 24.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 1 interception

Notable PFF Stat: Missed only 9.4% of tackles in 2023

Projection: Backup to Triston Newson/Chuck Hicks

Corey and his younger brother Caleb both transferred to Mizzou this offseason. Caleb joins as a preferred walk-on safety following two years at Houston Christian, while Corey becomes yet another Miami Hurricane to join former defensive coordinator Blake Baker in COMO.

Both brothers should bolster the defense’s depth, but Corey has some high-level experience at a linebacker position where the Tigers were in search of some major contributors. He led Miami with 60 total tackles during a breakout campaign in 2021, and he’s recorded 40+ tackles and 7+ tackles for loss in each of the past three years. Corey mainly does his work from the middle of the defense, but he has great sideline-to-sideline ability and is a reliable open-field tackler.

This play he made against Cade Klubnik sums up what Flagg is all about:

The competition for the starting linebacker spots in the 4-2-5 just got a bit more open, and it’s likely that Flagg will push Hicks and Newson throughout the spring and fall. That should only make the returning duo better, and if Flagg cracks the starting rotation, then that just means that Mizzou has yet another high-quality linebacker to rotate in. He’s another experienced piece that adds the kind of depth that College Football Playoff-caliber squads have.

Syndication: Gator Sports Matt Pendleton / USA TODAY NETWORK

Chris McClellan

Junior | Defensive Tackle | Owasso, Ok.

6-foot-3 | 320 lbs.

Former School: Florida

Career Stats: 46 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery

Notable PFF Stat: Lined up in the B-Gap on 187 of 291 snaps

Projection: Rotational defensive tackle, potential starter dependent upon offseason decisions

It’s hard to find a bigger body available than Chris McClellan. The block-eating mauler at Florida opted to enter the portal this offseason after two mirroring seasons in Gainesville. He posted 23 tackles in each of this two campaigns with the Gators, although he took a step back in terms of negative-yardage plays forced as a sophomore.

McClellan is going to be ready to contribute right away. He has SEC experience and size, and with the losses of Josh Landry and Realus George Jr. as well as potentially Kristian Williams and Jayden Jernigan, there is plenty of room to compete for significant snaps in the trenches. Williams Nwaneri may be able to content for some of the starting snaps, but otherwise this position group should end up being open for the taking.

The quartet of veteran tackles from the past two seasons were great in every way. Jernigan, George, Williams and Landry had great chemistry, rarely missed assignments and were all-in on winning. But, McClellan brings with him some real intimidating “beef” that Mizzou has somewhat lacked in recent years. His stature alone is enough to take people off-guard, and his power and violence in his run-stuffing is top-notch. McClellan could be a true “difference maker” at defensive tackle, something Mizzou hasn’t necessarily had in a while.

The guy should only get better within the Blake Baker defense, and I expected McClellan to play a pivotal role in providing quality production and depth up front in ‘24.