We’re under 30 days until Missouri takes the field against South Dakota and while we’ll get to see plenty of returning talent we also get a chance to see some new faces in the black and gold for the first time. While projections usually don’t go as planned for better or worse, I went and gave an attempt on what transfers I think are going to have the biggest impact for 2023.
Should start and make immediate contributions
Cam’Ron Johnson and Marcellus Johnson
Cam’Ron Johnson came here from Houston to start. Now, where it will be on the offensive line still remains a question. His 79.4 pass-blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus ranked 58th among all guards during the 2022 season. The next closest returning MU interior offensive linemen are Armand Membou, who is sliding in from right tackle with a 77.5 grade, and Xavier Delgado who graded out at 54.7.
With Membou sliding into the interior, Marcellus Johnson is on track to start at right tackle, and his 71.7 PFF grade placed 78th among guards. It’ll be intriguing to see how he contributes to the run game. During Sunday’s practice on an insider run period with the ball carrier running towards his side, you could hear a coach yell, “Nice job Marcellus!” all the way across the MATC practice fields
It’s probably too optimistic to say these two are candidates to be among the first or second-team all-conference linemen, but they should be an improvement to the group.
Theo Wease, Jr.
On Saturday, Eli Drinkwitz mentioned how he hasn’t been impressed with the performance of the wide receiver unit blocking on the perimeter thus far. However, there was one receiver he spoke highly of— Theo Wease. The former 5-star is one of the room’s biggest and most experienced receivers. This means he’ll, a) start at the X-receiver spot, and b) be this team’s deep threat and red zone target, which he specialized at OU.
Projected stats: 40 receptions, 640 yards, 6 touchdowns
Football fanatics know that special teams matter greatly from the long snapper, the placeholder, and the punter. If you don’t think so there’s a reason why Texas’ Michael Dixon was MVP of the 2017 Texas Bowl...against Missouri.
There is a punting battle going on between Riley Williams and Luke Bauer. Projecting that Williams wins the battle, he brings a leg averaging 44.7 yards per punt last season at Towson. No MU punter has averaged that amount since Trey Barrow’s 44.8 yards per punt in 2011.
Projected stats: 44 punts, 1,936 yards, 44 yards per punt
Joe Moore III
Like Wease, Joe Moore, the son of the legendary Tigers’ running back, received high praise from Drinkwitz on Saturday. The defensive end position will feature new faces with Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman gone to the NFL. Trajan Jeffcoat is now at Arkansas while Arden Walker is closer to home in Colorado. Darius Robinson is going to see time at one edge position, meaning Moore will fill the void at the other edge position. I fully expect his play to progress with a transition to Blake Baker’s system, which is no doubt better than Arizona State’s.
“He’s a great player, very fast, very physical, great hands, can move well, great bend. I feel like he’s gonna make a big impact for us this year.” — Tyron Hopper on Joe Moore.
Moore’s projected stats: 30 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks
Good rotational pieces
Too bad you can’t have seven to eight defensive backs on the field at a time because the depth and talent in Missouri’s secondary is insane. Tre’Vez Johnson comes from Florida after starting in nine games for the Gators, tallying 26 tackles, two for a loss. He should see plenty of playing time in 2023. Johnson is a safety who played in the slot position for Florida, but I think with Martez Manuel gone, he’ll form a one-two punch with Daylan Carnell at the STAR position in Baker’s defense.
“He’s been in the STAR position, he’s been all over the secondary really. He can play really anywhere, he’s a real versatile player, but he’s a real good leader for us already. He’s picked up on the plays very fast, he knows what he’s doing out there already so he’s going to be big for us.” — Daylan Carnell on Tre’Vez Johnson.
Projected stats: 32 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, forced fumble
Adding to the defensive end position, Nyles Gaddy to Columbia after being a star for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. As mentioned above there’s plenty of room for new faces to stand out at the edge position. I wouldn’t be surprised if on third downs and passing situations if Robinson slides inside with Moore and Gaddy patrolling the edges.
Gaddy’s projected stats: 20 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks
Coming from Miami, Marcus Clarke brings some experience from the Hurricanes. He lase appeared in 2021 in eight games for The U, tallying 24 total tackles, and interception and a pair of pass deflections. With the Tigers already having two stud cornerbacks in Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. and Kris Abrams-Draine, expect the experienced Clarke to be a nice depth piece that rotates in.
Projected stats: 16 total tackles, 4 pass deflections
Will have to battle to see playing time
The second of the former blue-chip receivers Missouri added this off-season through the transfer portal, Dannis Jackson comes from Mississippi and brings some serious speed and elusiveness to his game. He’ll fight for playing time in a room with so much depth. A question for him is how much he will be able to contribute in the blocking game at his size— he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 171 lb. Drinkwitz, as you recall, recently called this a “no block, no rock,” group.
Projected stats: 10 receptions, 118 yards, touchdown
Coming from Northwestern, there’s curiosity about Austin Firestone. He’s a bigger athlete than both Moore and Gaddy at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, but he appeared in just three games tallying three tackles for the Wildcats. Will he possibly see snaps in the defensive line rotation? Yes, but he seems like more of a long-term project who will progress throughout his career.
As a Brady Cook stan, I fully expect him to be the starter over Jake Garcia and Sam Horn unless the battle drags into the first couple of weeks of the regular season. This means playing time for any other quarterback will come at a premium, but Missouri still plays South Dakota.
Projected stats: 12-20, 90 yards, touchdown