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Get To Know Your New Defensive Coordinator: Corey Batoon

The newly minted elder-statesman of the Mizzou football coaching staff is tasked with picking up the pieces of the two best Missouri defenses in nearly a decade

al.com

When you think “greatest Missouri defense”, where does your mind go to? The 1960s? 70s? The mid-aughts? The incredible run of ‘13, ‘14, and ‘15?

Well, SP+ can help with that thought exercise. As a quality analyzing metric, it looks at what an individual defense does - TFLs, havoc, situational success rates, scoring - and gives you an overall number to quantify the quality of a given defense compared to its peers in a given year*. And while this isn’t the “end all be all” answer to the question posited above, here are the top ten Missouri defenses fielded since 2000; the bolded entries are Blake Baker’s defenses:

  1. 2015 - 12.4 (3rd in the nation)
  2. 2014 - 15.2 (8th)
  3. 2022 - 16.4 (19th)
  4. 2019 - 17.1 (17th)
  5. 2010 - 17.6 (19th)
  6. 2023 - 18.0 (14th)
  7. 2018 - 21.0 (25th)
  8. 2004 - 21.6 (37th)
  9. 2012 - 21.6 (35th)
  10. 2011 - 22.0 (41st)
*the closer the SP+ defensive rating is to 0.0, the better

I feel like the analysis of “the best SP+ rated Missouri defenses” could be a separate column and conversation all on its own, but the main takeaway for this piece is that Blake Baker was responsible for two of the six greatest defenses put on the field since 2000...and now he’s gone.

Baker did it with havoc but he also did with a killer secondary - potentially the greatest starting secondary Missouri has ever fielded - and certainly one with the most potential NFL Draft picks. That secondary was recruited by Eli Drinkwitz and Ryan Walters, honed by Steve Wilks, and perfected by Blake Baker, so there are several cooks responsible for this delicious defensive dish.

But while the recruiting and (at least one!) of the position coaches for the secondary are still around, our new DC will be tasked with maximizing new production assets in the secondary and defensive line. As a reminder, returning production in the defensive secondary is one of the key indicators of overall defensive quality, and Mizzou - flushed with experience the past two years - will be lacking in 2024.

Enter: Corey Batoon. Native Hawaiian (possibly the first ever for a Mizzou football coach?), seasoned veteran, experienced havoc creator over the past three years with Kane Wommack’s South Alabama Jaguars.

So where did this guy come from? Glad you asked:

Coach Batoon’s Coaching History

Coach Batoon was getting his coaching start when I hadn’t even started kindergarten yet and has slowly worked his way up through the coaching ranks since. From Pierce Junior College he spent three years coaching defensive backs at the high school ranks. He converted that into two one-year stints at Central Missouri and Montana before landing at his longest-tenured role: defensive coordinator for the Fightin’ Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona University. The ‘Jacks weren’t all that great during that time, mind you, but Batoon was there from 1998 all the way through 2008, finally leaving for a perceived upgrade onto Steve Roberts’ crumbling Arkansas State regime. Batoon coached defensive backs and managed the special teams in the last two years of the Roberts regime and the first (and only) year of Hugh Freeze’s turn as the Red Wolves captain before following Freeze to Ole Miss where he was moved out of the on-field coaching role and into the athletic department, assisting with recruiting efforts.

Now...think back to Ole Miss in the early 2010s. What were they known for? That’s right: cheating their whole ass off in recruiting. What they were doing certainly isn’t against the rules in our current NIL-infused world but it was very much a no-no with the NCAA back then. And while this sport hates nothing more than an up-start program that shouldn’t be good subsequently getting good via a massive recruiting bump, Freeze’s staff and Ole Miss were investigated by the NCAA heavily, leading to some nuclear-level fallout that was adjacent - but unrelated to - said recruiting violations.

Not saying that stuff as a negative about Batoon, by the way. I want a guy willing to do what it takes to get the best recruits on my team, full stop. Freeze is still human garbage though.

Anyway...Batoon took a lifeboat out of Oxford and landed on Lane Kiffin’s first Florida Atlantic team, before moving on to be the DC for Nick Rolovich’s overachieving Hawaii squads, then Liberty’s safeties coach, and then, finally, his previous role as DC for South Alabama.

It’s been quite the football life for Corey! And now he’s back in the SEC and back in the state of Missouri for the first time since 1996.

Corey Batoon’s link to the rest of the staff

None! Despite being employed at schools that Drinkwitz and wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler both coached at, Batoon’s last year at Arkansas State (2011) was the year before Drinkwitz arrived on staff (2012), and Batoon’s last year at Ole Miss (2016) was the year before Peeler was hired at Oxford (2017). This marks the second-straight overall hire (and coordinator hire) that has no direct professional ties to a coach currently on staff at Mizzou.

In Part Two I’ll go over Batoon’s scheme and statistical effectiveness as a defensive coordinator.