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Mizzou Analytics MVPs: An offensive standout and a defensive dark horse

The first installment of a weekly series, looking at which Tigers excelled analytically week-by-week

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Middle Tennessee at Missouri

Oftentimes after a football game, you will see players of the week, sometimes voted on by fans, and teams of the week, sometimes voted on by media.

Well, I’m here to bring you a fresh take on players of the week, with a new weekly installment on called, “Mizzou Analytics MVPs.” The goal of this installment is to highlight players who excelled relative to their peers in college football from an analytical standpoint.

Each week, I will select an offensive and defensive player to be my MVPs and give a report on how those players did and why exactly they were my pick.

Offense: Luther Burden III

Burden had arguably his best game as a Tiger against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, and some of that has to do with how he was utilized, and a lot of it has to do with Burden performing in areas he flat-out didn’t perform in last season.

@AdeenRao_ | Twitter

Pictured above is Luther Burden’s analytical output from last season, and you can really see how Burden was used. The majority of his big plays came off of screens where he had to miss tacklers and rack up yards after catch. However, in basically every other major statistical category he was horrendous.

Fast forward to the 2023 season. Against Middle Tennessee, we saw a completely different Luther Burden than the one we saw last year. The coaching staff wasn’t afraid to send him deep in the slightest, and Burden wasn’t afraid to go up and get those contested grabs.

@AdeenRao_ | Twitter

Burden mixed in what he excelled in 2022 and combined it with what he has improved upon this year, showing a vast improvement in his catch rate and his contested catch rates.

What can this be attributed to? The first thing we can point to is Burden being in the 60th percentile of depth of target. as it appears the mission was to send Burden deeper as opposed to shorter on Saturday and it worked in Mizzou’s favor.

The stat I really want to point out is Burden being in the 97th percentile of route running for Week 2, as that really is just fantastic because if he can continue to do that against elevated competition Burden will likely be the Tigers’ standout player for the rest of the season.

On that play above you can see something that we didn’t see a lot of last year— Burden going deep and Burden coming down with a tough contested grab to set up the Tigers in prime position for a score.

Overall, there weren’t many that stood out offensively for the Tigers on Saturday, but Burden was far and above the most impressive and showed exactly what you want to see from a talent as highly touted as him in their second year.

Defense: Darius Robinson

Robinson didn’t receive a single vote from our Rock M crew during the MV3 voting, but when you look at the underlying metrics it’s hard to see why.

@AdeenRao_ | Twitter

Robinson was amongst the best tacklers and overall run defenders at the edge position on Saturday, and was a big contributor to the fact that Middle Tennessee only had 71 yards rushing at 2.4 yards per carry.

At face value, Robinson had 7 total tackles which is good for the second most on the team Saturday, but overall Robinson was in the Top 18th percentile of edges in all of college football.

Robinson’s numbers also show that a player can have a massive impact on the game as an edge defender, even if they aren’t racking up pressures or sacks on the quarterback, and that’s exactly what Robinson did.

Nyles Gaddy was an extremely close second for this week, but for me, Robinson’s impact on the run game can’t go overlooked, as Mizzou’s ability to apprehend the run was a massive reason why the Tigers weren’t leaving Faurot Field 1-1 Saturday.