Missouri took a dramatic step forward at every level of its defense in 2023. The majority of the credit (for good reason) went to the defensive line and the secondary, but the improved linebacker play shouldn’t go overlooked. Ty’Ron Hopper instantly added more speed at the second level of the defense, and Chad Bailey developed into a heck of a run stuffer in the middle of the Tigers’ defense.
Bailey is expected back in 2023. Hopper has not yet announced his plans, but he is eligible to enter the NFL Draft, and it’s not hard to imagine the NFL Draft committee will give him bad news about his draft stock. Hopper had a heck of a season, and I would think smart money is on him declaring. If he does, the Tigers are going to be looking for someone to replace his snaps in 2023.
Newson finished his JUCO season with 51 solo tackles, 107 total tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. He led his team in nearly every statistical category defensively. How will he fit into Missouri’s defense? Let’s take a look.
Where he fits: Newson is a bit undersized for your typical “MIKE” linebacker, so my guess is he’ll fit in at “WIL”. If Hopper declares for the NFL Draft, Newson should factor into the competition for Hopper’s old position along with Chuck Hicks and Dameon Wilson. It’s possible one of Carmycah Glass or Xavier Simmons could take a step forward to compete for a spot in the 2-deep, as well.
I’ve always found it tough to evaluate JUCO players. It’s hard to tell what the level of talent is on either side of the ball. Newson appears to be better flowing sideline-to-sideline than taking on plays downhill. That’s to be expected, given his size. So, he’ll come in, compete at the WIL and we’ll see how it translates to this level.
When he’ll play: This is where things get interesting. It’s hard to project how Newson will fit into the mix. If I had to guess, I would think his role will be similar to Chuck Hicks’ role when he first got to Missouri in 2021; primarily playing on special teams with the occasional snaps on defense at the end of certain games.
What it all means: Missouri added some extra depth and competition to the linebacker corps. Bailey is the entrenched starter. Hopper would be, too, if he were to make a surprise decision to return in 2023. If/when he doesn’t then Wilson, Hicks, Newson, Glass and Simmons will likely battle it out for snaps at the WIL position.
Newson’s addition helps, but I could still see the Tigers shopping in the portal for another established starter to plug in next to Bailey if Hopper leaves. This team is far from settled with its 2023 roster.