The Missouri Tigers enter the 2018 season with a lot of questions answered. After all, they have a star quarterback in Drew Lock and nine other returning starters on offense.
On defense, they’re led by DT Terry Beckner Jr., LB Terez Hall and other veterans who have been through the gauntlet of SEC play the past few years.
However, as fall camps get underway, there are still a few starting spots undecided, and a few battles that coach Barry Odom and his staff will be watching closely.
These are five position battles that will be the most interesting as August moves toward September and Week 1 draws ever closer:
1. RB: Damarea Crockett vs. Larry Rountree III
The Tigers have two solid running backs, and that’s something they’ve featured the past few years. Back in 2016, it was Crockett and Ish Witter. Last year, when Crockett went down, it was Rountree and Witter.
In this day and age, you have to have two strong runners, and the Tigers have that again in 2018. However, Crockett and Rountree will battle it out to see who will be the starter. Both will get plenty of work, but if Crockett (below) returns to 2016 form, he’ll likely be the one who starts the game alongside Lock in the backfield.
2. Backup QB: Micah Wilson vs. Jack Lowary
Lock is the unquestioned starter, but the backup position is wide open. Wilson and Lowary have the most experience at Mizzou, but newcomer Lindsey Scott, a former LSU Tiger, will also be in the mix.
Wilson saw (very limited) action as Lock’s backup last season, but Lowary looked good during the spring game. Wilson is more versatile as a runner than Lowary, but if Lowary shows improvement with his arm this summer, he could snag the backup spot.
If all goes according to plan, the winner of this battle still won’t see too much action this fall, but whoever does get those limited snaps will be better positioned to win the job in 2019 and beyond.
3. CB: Christian Holmes vs. Adam Sparks
Holmes had to sit out the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, forcing Sparks into action as a true freshman. Sparks struggled at times, but he and DeMarkus Acy were a big part of the team’s defensive turnaround as they gained more experience.
Now, Holmes will try to work his way back into a starting role, but both he and Sparks will get plenty of playing time, as defenses often need to use at least three corners on a regular basis these days.
4. WR: Nate Brown vs. Alex Ofodile vs. Richaud Floyd
The Tigers return Emanuel Hall and Johnathon Johnson to lead a talented receiving corps, but the No. 3 receiver position is still up for grabs heading into camp.
The three most likely candidates to fill the position are senior Nate Brown, Oregon transfer Alex Ofodile and the versatile Richaud Floyd, who also returns kicks.
All three offer different strengths to the passing game, and Floyd also contributes as a returner. They’ll all likely see action, but one will have to stand out in order to catch Lock’s eye more than the others.
5. The entire defensive line (besides Terry Beckner Jr.)
Beckner Jr. will be one of the Tigers’ starting defensive tackles. That much we know for sure.
However, all three other positions on the line are up for grabs. Rashad Brandon, Kobie Whiteside, Markell Utsey, Jordan Elliott, Walter Palmore and others are in the mix along the interior line. At the two end positions, Tre Williams, Chris Turner, Franklin Agbasimere, Nate Anderson and others will duke it out.
Beckner will take the pressure off whoever starts alongside him, but Odom and his staff will need to see a few guys show they deserve snaps this fall, or the line could be one of Mizzou’s weakest in several years.