Spring football is over and we've seen a hint of how Missouri's depth chart looks during the Black and Gold Spring Game. With several graduating seniors looking to enter the NFL draft and a few underclassmen deciding to leave the team, the Tigers are down to 83 scholarship players if you count the incoming 2016 class.
A recap of Mizzou's Spring Football
A defense that returned eight starters was missing several key members, primarily up front with Charles Harris, Nate Howard, Terry Beckner, and Harold Brantley with Walter Brady going down with a knee injury that reportedly won't require surgery. During camp we heard that sophomore Terez Hall had usurped senior Donavin Newsom for the strong-side linebacker position but that change didn't manifest last Saturday. Early enrollee Cale Garrett was taking second string reps at middle linebacker behind Michael Scherer which was surprising.
Competition was mostly reserved to weakside linebacker, free safety and boundary corner. We saw Joey Burkett and Brandon Lee go back and forth to replace Kentrell Brothers for the weakside linebacker spot, with Burkett seemingly in the lead throughout the spring. Cam Hilton moved back to defense to compete for Ian Simon's open safety spot but a lingering hamstring injury opened the door for Thomas Wilson to impress and he did. Finally, TJ Warren was a surprise starter in the spring game, jumping the more experienced John Gibson for the cornerback spot opposite Aarion Penton. Warren looked good in his reps while his competition, Gibson and Anthony Hines, both gave up scores. Each remain in the mix, possibly at the nickleback spot.
On offense there were too few scholarship lineman to run a full two-deep and too many wide receivers who needed to impress. The receivers saw a shakeup with former slot receiver Nate Brown moving outside and Bama grad transfer Chris Black taking his spot. Keyon Dilosa started at the final outside receiver position but split reps with DeSean Blair. J'Mon Moore actually looked like he was backing up Nate Brown on the outside while Emanuel Hall and Justin Smith rounded out the outside WR spots.
But what if we created the depth chart based on recruiting rankings?
Using 247sports composite rankings let's see how the depth chart would look if it was organized by recruiting rankings. How does the "recruiting depth chart" look compared to what we think the depth chart looks like now?
|1||Drew Lock SO. (.9535)|
|2||Marvin Zanders RS SO. (.8169)|
Drew Lock got the majority of first team reps and he'd clearly edge out Marvin Zanders based on recruiting rankings. Jack Lowary didn't have a 247 profile so it's hard to slot him in this lineup but incoming 2016 quarterback Micah Wilson (.8404) would jump Zanders once on campus.
|1||Ryan Williams RS FR. (.8578)|
|2||Trevon Walters RS SO. (.8540)|
|3||Ish Witter JR. (.8463)|
Ish Witter looked like he was in control of the starting role during the spring but here he gets bumped to third string and his demotion would continue if both Nate Strong (.8959) and Damarea Crockett (.8664) make it to campus. The two newest running backs would actually vault to the first and second string positions based on recruiting rankings. One of the deepest groups, per the rankings, the running backs remain one of the biggest questions headed into the fall.
|1||Sean Culkin SR (.8641)|
|2||Kendall Blanton RS SO. (.8389)|
|3||Jason Reese RS JR. (.8376)|
Sean Culking and Jason Reese are essentially 1a and 1b at tight end, with Culkin flexing wide more often and Reese staying in and being more of an h-back or attached TE. Here we'd see Kendall Blanton assume that role behind Culkin. Freshman Brendan Scales (.8822) would leapfrog all the tight ends while Albert Okwuegbunam (.8609) would slip into the third string position once he arrives on campus.
|1||Tyler Howell JR. (.8808)||Nate Crawford RS JR. (.8225)||Alec Abeln RS JR. (.8117)||AJ Harris RS FR. (.8894)||Paul Adams RS SO. (.8494)|
|2||Tanner Owen RS FR. (.8190)||Samson Bailey RS SO. (.8019)||Kevin Pendleton RS SO. (.8335)||Tyrell Jacobs RS FR. (.8399)|
Crawford and Tyrell Jacobs were ranked as a defensive linemen coming out of high school but Crawford was a fairly good right tackle when healthy last year. Nate's move to left guard in the spring would mean he could cede the spot to incoming freshmen Tre'Vour Simms (.8457) or Trystan Castillo (.8446), particularly if he's unable to return from his second back surgery. The rest of the group looks similar to what it did during the spring except Kevin Pendleton has locked down guard spot over AJ Harris. Glen Elarbee doesn't have a lot of flexibility on the outside but Howell and Adams appear to have solidified their holds of the tackle spots.
|1||Nate Brown JR. (.8922)||Chris Black SR. (.9768)||J'Mon Moore RS JR. (.8653)|
|2||DeSean Blair RS SO. (.8582)||Ray Wingo RS SO. (.8733)||Justin Smith RS FR. (.8431)|
J'Mon Moore is back as a starter, replacing Keyon Dilosa (.8141) who doesn't make the two deep. Florida receiver DeSean Blair slots in behind Nate Brown which mirrored reality but Ray Wingo and Justin Smith make surprise appearances. I'd forgotten that Wingo was a fairly well-regarded 3* out of St. Louis and here he barely edges fan favorite Johnathan Johnson (.8615), but combined with Richaud Floyd (.8419) the slot position has some of the best depth. Incoming recruits Dominic Collins (.8367), Harry Ballard (.8314) and Dimetrios Mason (.8255) will have to really impress to crack this rotation.
|1||Terry Beckner SO. (.9918)||Josh Augusta SR. (.9078)|
|2||Josh Moore SO. (.8550)||Rickey Hatley RS SR. (.8413)|
A pair of Illinois tackles command the top spots here. Beckner was unable to play in the spring game but he was essentially a co-starter as a true freshman last year, earning Freshman All-American honors. It's reasonable to presume he'd return there once fully recovered from his ACL injury. Perhaps Josh Augusta can work himself into shape this summer and regain the starting spot his recruiting ranking suggests. Josh Moore, a high school tight end, finds himself third here along side actual starter Rickey Hatley who's been a steady force on the interior the past two years. AJ Logan (.8210) was a starter through the spring but would only narrowly edge out incoming Arkansas product Markell Utsey (.8164) for the third string.
|1||Marcell Frazier RS JR. (.8744)||Nate Howard SO. (.8603)|
|2||Spencer Williams RS SO. (.8241)||Walter Brady RS SO. (.7859)|
Kind of noticeable that Charles Harris (.7000) fails to make an appearance given what we know now about the terrific pass rusher but it's important to recall that he played basketball in high school - meaning his late shift to football was hard to evaluate. Missouri's defensive ends specifically have been one of the most productive groups but Freshman All-American Walter Brady barely makes it into the rotation here and would fall out if we were to count incoming incoming freshman Tre Williams (.8670).
|1||Donavin Newsom RS SR. (.9008)||Michael Scherer RS SR. (.8786)||Brandon Lee RS SO. (.8962)|
|2||Terez Hall SO.(.8637)||Eric Beisel RS JR. (.8672)||Grant Jones RS SO. (.8454)|
This looks largely the same except for Brandon Lee taking over the WLB spot from Joey Burkett (.8385) and Eric Beisel filling in behind Michael Scherer. The curious case of Eric Beisel has been pondered by fans for a while now; he absolutely looks the part of an SEC linebacker but struggles to find playing time and has since been surpassed by true freshman Cale Garrett (.8073). Meanwhile, Brandon Lee hasn't been able to overtake Joey Burkett and the insanely athletic Donavin Newsom has been in a dog-fight with Terez Hall. The group is quietly one of the most talented with guys like Franklin "Smash" Agbasimere (.8272) who picked of football late and Trey Baldwin (.8420), both who could be challenging for reps this year.
|1||Aarion Penton SR. (.8423)||Anthony Hines JR. (.8556)|
|2||John Gibson RS SR. (.8423)||TJ Warren RS SO. (.8394)|
This group has a dead heat between starter Aarion Penton and backup John Gibson who was recently surpassed by sophomore TJ Warren. Anthony Hines, who is still fighting to crack the real two deep, is actually the highest rated prospect. Junior Logan Cheadle (.8381) has shown flashes last year and through the spring but gets bumped here while the incoming talent, Jerod Alton (.8193) and Christian Holmes (.8165) would only outrank sophomore Finis Stribling (.8029). It's also worth noting that the cornerback group appears is the lowest rated group on average of the entire roster and will only go down when Penton and Gibson graduate - meaning there's definitely room for a highly rated 2017 commits to come in and compete for a starting role.
|1||Anthony Sherrils RS JR. (.8591)||Cam Hilton SO. (.8569)|
|2||Thomas Wilson JR. (.8568)||Ronnell Perkins RS FR. (.8566)|
A tightly clustered group safeties led by junior Anthony Sherrils perhaps reveals why there was a fair amount of movement among the position during the spring. The competition will certainly heat up when Tavon Ross (.8436) fully returns from his ACL injury and when Greg Taylor (.8559) and DeMarkus Acy (.8467) join the team. The group appeared thin initially but based on recruiting rankings it has a fair amount of quality depth.
- Defensive average ranking - Starters: (.8758), Backups: (.8511)
- Offensive average ranking - Starters: (.8785)*, Backups: (.8385)**
*Without counting Chris Black this drops to (.8690),
**I had to count Simms into this average due to lack of OL depth
It seems odd that the offensive starters have a higher recruiting ranking than the defense until you remember Chris Black was highly rated. If he's able to stay healthy he certainly would appear to balance the two sides of the ball. The real drop off occurs with the offensive backups who are brought down because of the offensive line. Granted, recruiting rankings aren't everything, but if you're like me and use them to gauge a player's readiness to compete they reveal a particular lack of depth for Missouri.