Not every transfer is going to come in right away and become a star at his new school. For Tyrone Hopper, that shouldn’t be the expectation. The former North Carolina edge defender served in a starting role for the Tar Heels in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury early this year.
The next time he sees the field, it’ll be in black and gold.
Hopper is a perfectly fine player. There’s nothing that stands out about his game, but he’s been through the battles and the defensive staff will have confidence he’ll do what’s asked. There’s value in that. Chris Turner made a career at Missouri out of it, frankly.
That’s the kind of player Hopper has been, at least thus far in his career. He has experience covering tight ends off the line of scrimmage, tracking running backs out of the backfield and rushing off the edge. If you need Hopper to do something a SAM linebacker or edge defender is asked to do, there’s a good chance he’s done it before and he’s done it against power five competition.
Those snaps, however, haven’t come with an overwhelming amount of production. He was on the field for the vast majority of North Carolina’s defensive snaps in 2020 and finished the season with 27 total tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Those numbers ranked 12th, T10th, T7th and T1st on North Carolina’s defense in 2020.
Where he fits: The Tigers are expecting Trajan Jeffcoat, Cannon York, Isaiah McGuire, Daniel Robledo, Johnny Walker Jr., Travion Ford, Jonathan Jones, Arden Walker and Kyran Montgomery to return at defensive end, but they did lose Jatorian Handford in the transfer portal and Chris Turner to graduation.
Hansford and Turner finished third and fourth on the team in snaps last season. It appears it was a priority to find a proven commodity to at least replace a portion of those snaps. Hopper can fill that role admirably.
My expectation would be for Jeffcoat and McGuire to enter the fall as your established starters with both Walkers, Ford, Jones and Hopper battling for opportunities to join the rotation as the third and fourth defensive ends.
When he’ll play: The unique nature about Hopper is he’s a true graduate transfer in every sense of the word. He was a member of North Carolina’s 2016 recruiting class, so the 2022 season will be his seventh on a college campus. He redshirted as a true freshman, received a free COVID season in 2020 and appeared in just two games last season which earned him an extra year of eligibility for 2022. For context on just how long Hopper has been in college, Daniel Parker Jr. - who recently transferred to Oklahoma as a grad transfer - was part of Missouri’s 2018 recruiting class. Hopper was at North Carolina when Parker was a sophomore at Blue Springs High School.
Hopper is going to bring a whole lot of game experience with him to Missouri, but he also brings a whole heck of a lot of extra life experience, too.
I say all of that to say this - Hopper’s going to play right away. He’s not transferring to Mizzou to sit on the bench for his final year of college eligibility. Maybe that’s the way things ultimately work out, but it’s hard to imagine that’s his or Mizzou’s expectations going into this partnership.
What it all means: Missouri added a proven depth piece to its defensive line. Nobody is going to mistake Hopper for Jeffcoat, but he’s a solid player who gives the coaching staff time to continue developing the young edge rushers on the roster.
The hope should be players like Walker Jr., Ford, Jones or Walker ultimately overtake Hopper in the rotation by the end of the season, but Hopper is insurance in case those players don’t develop as quickly as the coaches would like.
Missouri lacked proven commodities behind Jeffcoat and McGuire, and the coaching staff was able to add one in Hopper.