The outlook for this season changed when Kelly Bryant announced he was transferring to Missouri. The graduate transfer will have one season behind center for the Tigers and he will have plenty of weapons to help him. Gone is deep ball threat Emmanuel Hall and running back Damerea Crockett, but everyone else of significance returns. If Bryant can even come close to replicating his 2017 season at Clemson the Tigers are in good shape to have an outstanding season. Taylor Powell will continue to run the back-up position after doing so last season under Drew Lock.
The running back position appears to be set with Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie taking a majority of the snaps. Rountree lll ran for over 1,200 yards last year and found the end zone 11 times to lead the Tigers. Tyler Badie added nearly 450 yards on the ground as the third running back and appears to be ready to handle more of the load. Badie is also capable of stepping out and becoming a pass catcher.
On the outside it appears as if Jalen Knox and Jonathon Nance will start and Johnathon Johnson will be the go-to guy in the slot. Behind them are receivers Kam Scott, Dominic Gicinto and Maurice Massey . Jonathon Nance is a transfer from Arkansas and who saw some success in 2017 going for 539 yards and 37 catches will need to develop chemistry with Bryant. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam will be the go to guy for the Tigers. Someone on the outside though will need to step in and take over for Emmanuel Hall. There are plenty of guys who are capable but need to prove it when the Tigers get ready for the big time stage.
The offensive line returns three starters off what was a very good unit last year. Yasir Durant is back at left tackle, Trystan Colon-Castillo is still at center, and Tre’Vour Wallace-Sims will get a majority of the starts at right guard. Right now the other two spots are penned down for Larry Borom and Hyrin White.
This side of the ball has been a struggle since Barry Odom came in last year but they did take some steps forward last year. This year the Tigers will look to play more of a 4-2-5 defense. The improvements on Tigers will need to come from the defensive line. Gone is Terry Beckner Jr., but Jordan Harold and Kobie Whiteside are a very good pair on the inside. Akial Byers and Markell Utsey are capable backups. At defensive end the starters are Chris Turner and Jatorian Hansford. This position is the biggest question mark on the team. Tre Williams who was recently reinstated to the team will have to make an impact on the pass rush.
Mizzou has been blessed with some really solid linebackers since the transition to the SEC and Cale Garrett is no different. The 2nd Team Preseason All-SEC selection will probably lead the Tigers in tackles for the third year in a row and any improvements this defense takes will start with him. Nick Bolton will get the starting job at the other linebacker spot taking over for Terez Hall.
At corner we saw a bit of a surprise when the depth chart was announced. Instead of Christian Holmes and DeMarkus Acy it will be Jarvis Ware and Acy. Acy was a second team All-SEC selection after intercepting three passes last season. Holmes will be in a backup spot along with Adam Sparks in what is good corner depth. The Tigers will employ three safeties in the new scheme. Joshuah Bledsoe, Tyree Gillespie and Khalil Oliver or Ronnell Perkins. The Tigers will have two normal safeties and one that will be more of a hybrid. The defensive backfield for the Tigers took some steps after a miserable start last year and that is promising for Barry Odom who finally has a secondary with some experience.
Even with a potential bowl ban, there is a lot of excitement in Columbia for Mizzou. Bringing in Bryant and an easy schedule has Tiger fans hoping and believing in a ten win season. Looking at the schedule there are eight games the Tigers should be favorites. The other four are home games against the South Carolina Gamecocks and Florida Gators, and then road games at the Kentucky Wildcats and Georgia Bulldogs.
Beyond just the schedule the culture around the program has seemed to be rising. Culture is an overused term but it is also telling that after the bowl sanctions were announced not one player transferred even with plenty of teams trying to pry players away. The Drew Lock era is over and this season will be massive for Barry Odom and staff to prove that they have the program moving in the right direction.