If you feel like there’s been a lack of football news lately, you’re not wrong. Missouri finished spring ball all the way back on March 18th. No other SEC program ended spring ball prior to April 8th. A lack of news is a reflection on the lack of action.
This lack of news also coincides with an NCAA “quiet period” which takes place from March 1st through April 14th. College coaches are not permitted to have face-to-face contact with high school prospects unless that player is outside of that team’s respective campus. In other words, Missouri’s coaches are not allowed to visit with recruits in-person unless those recruits travel to Columbia to do so.
Things are about to ramp back up in the next week or so as that “quiet period” ends. That applies to both the transfer portal and high school recruiting. Missouri’s staff will no doubt be active on both fronts, but the immediate needs are likely to be filled via the transfer portal - both players already in the portal and those who could jump into the portal after their teams’ spring ball comes to an end.
What are the Tigers likely to be shopping for? There are four needs that stand out above the rest:
1) Running Back:
- I don’t view it as an urgent need, but if an obvious upgrade presents itself, I don’t think it would be the worst thing to add to the position group. The Tigers return Cody Schrader, Nathaniel Peat and Tavorus Jones from a group that really struggled to run the ball consistently in 2022. A bigger back with the ability to run between the tackles would be ideal, but maybe Missouri’s staff believes Jones could be that player in his second year on campus.
2) Tight End:
- Listen, you’re not going to find anyone who is more excited about the potential of Ryan Hoerstkamp than the man writing this piece, but Missouri’s tight ends combined for 10 receptions last year. That would be fine if they were kicking some serious butt as blockers in the running game, but, well, that’s not necessarily the case. Maybe Max Whisner is going to be a breakout candidate. It’s possible Brett Norfleet is ready quicker than expected. I wouldn’t bank on either scenario, though. Adding a ready-made tight end from the portal should be one of Missouri’s top priorities prior to the start of the 2023 season.
3) Offensive Line:
- Javon Foster, Marcellus Johnson and Armand Membou are almost certainly three of the Tigers’ five starters along the offensive line. E.J. Ndoma-Ogar, Xavier Delgado, Bence Polgar, Connor Tollison and Drake Heismeyer are in a 5-way battle to start at the other two open slots along the offensive line. Adding a solid power five center would be ideal, but adding a stud at offensive guard (maybe one who played for Missouri’s new offensive line coach at Houston?) would also be helpful. Offensive line is a “weakest link” position group; otherwise known as a position in which it’s every bit as important to have no liabilities as it is to have overwhelming talent. Right now, Missouri has at least one below-average starting position along its offensive line. Patching that hole before the start of the season would be helpful.
4) Defensive End:
- More than 1,400 snaps from Missouri’s 2022 defensive ends have walked out the door with Isaiah McGuire, Trajan Jeffcoat, DJ Coleman and Tyrone Hopper moving on. The Tigers are hoping to replace that production with some combination of Johnny Walker Jr., Arden Walker, Joe Moore III, Austin Firestone and (maybe) Darius Robinson. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker has earned the benefit of the doubt to say he could get by with that group, but adding another proven power five edge rusher to the mix should be something the staff looks to do via the transfer portal.
That brings us to the most recent portal news. The Tigers reportedly hosted former Florida State defensive end Derrick McLendon on an official visit over the weekend.
The former Seminole finished last season playing more than 500 snaps while producing 29 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 QB Hit and 24 pressures. Pro Football Focus’ grades suggest McLendon is (more or less) a slightly more productive version of Trajan Jeffcoat. He’s strong at the point of attack, misses a few more tackles than would be ideal, but he holds up well against the run and he’s able to get after the quarterback with a blend of strength and motor.
Adding McLendon to the mix would give the Tigers a solid rotational piece off of the edge. He’s not a game-changer coming off the edge, but he could be exactly what the Tigers are currently lacking when it comes to consistency at the position.