Remember when Missouri played against a Mike Leach offense with you, me and three of our favorite traffic cones available in the secondary back in 2020? Eli Drinkwitz is hellbent to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Tigers went into the offseason with the secondary as one of the team’s most unsettled positions. There were legitimate questions about whether or not Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw would return. Joseph Charleston could move on if he wanted to. Jaylon Carlies has NFL potential. Martez Manuel was out of eligibility.
All we really knew was that Daylan Carnell would likely start at STAR, and Marcus Clarke would fill some role at cornerback. Everything else was up in the air.
This is one of those rare offseasons at Mizzou where seemingly every question was answered in the affirmative. Abrams-Draine, Rakestraw, Charleston and Carlies are all back. Former Florida nickel cornerback Tre’Vez Johnson has been added to the mix. The Tigers added four players to the secondary in last year’s high school class, and now there’s another new name to add to the defensive backfield.
Former Florida State safety Sidney Williams is hoping to add some serious physicality to the Tigers’ secondary after announcing his intentions in mid-January to transfer to Columbia. Williams is a former 3-star recruit out of Mobile, Alabama. He happens to have a family tie at Missouri, as he is cousins with Abrams-Draine. He went a bit under-recruited out of high school because he tore his labrum in the first half of his senior season, and missed the remainder of the year. He was a late addition to Florida State’s 2020 class after Mike Norvell was hired from Memphis. FSU’s confidence in Williams paid off early. He played on special teams as a true freshman and started a few games at safety in his second season on campus, but missed the majority of the season due to an injury.
He took a step back in playing time in 2022, and opted to enter his name into the transfer portal. Williams has two years of eligibility remaining at Missouri.
Where he’ll play: Williams played all over in high school, including at cornerback and safety, but he’s spent the vast majority of his time as a deep safety at Florida State. Those are the slots currently occupied by Charleston and Carlies, but it’s worth noting Jalani Williams played more than 200 snaps at safety for the Tigers last season. To put that in perspective, Williams played more snaps in 2022 than Josh Landry, Arden Walker or Tyrone Hopper. There’s playing time to be had in the secondary, even if it’s not as an established starter.
Williams adds proven depth to a position that could use some. The returning options behind Carlies and Charleston included Tyler Jones, Tyler Hibbler, Isaac Thompson and Ja’Marion Wayne. Those four players were in for a combined 68 defensive snaps last year. Adding a proven and experienced power five performer to the group certainly doesn’t hur.
When he’ll play: As we always say, you don’t add a power five transfer to sit on the bench. That is not his expectation, and it shouldn’t be Missouri’s expectation, either. My guess is Williams will slot in where Jalani Williams did a year ago as the third safety in obvious passing down situations. Jalani was in for an average of 10-15 defensive snaps last season, and we could expect something similar for Sidney in 2023.
It’s also important to note that Williams was considered to be a key special teams player at Florida State, and he adds some serious physicality on the back end of a defense. He could become a tone-setter in Missouri’s secondary, and could prove to be a starter by 2024.
What it all means: Missouri added some crucial depth to a secondary that could use a proven player on the back end. The Tigers went into the offseason with several questions as to how the defensive backfield would be constructed, and it suddenly appears to be among the deepest position groups on the roster.
Sidney Williams won’t make many headlines, but this is the kind of pickup that could pay dividends in 2023 if Missouri deals with any sort of injury issues or if the horrible, no good, very bad targeting rule rears its ugly head. This was a smart addition at a critically important position.