Mizzou football: Top 25 players of the decade
The Missouri Tigers have had a roller-coaster of a decade, with 2 coaching changes, 2 SEC East titles and some good and some bad seasons.
However, one thing has remained consistent — the Tigers have had some great players come through the program on both sides of the ball. Many of them haven’t gone on to great NFL careers (although Drew Lock might), but that doesn’t diminish at all what they accomplished at Mizzou.
So, who cracks the Top 25 for the 2010s? There were 14 defenders and 11 offensive players who made the cut.
(Note: No matter what people who tell you they can analyze offensive line play say, unless you know the play call and the blocking assignments, it’s so hard to evaluate which players stand out. That’s especially true on the interior offensive line. So, shoutouts go-to guys like Justin Britt, Yasir Durant, Trystan Colon-Castillo, Evan Boehm, Mitch Morse, Paul Adams, Kevin Pendleton, Connor McGovern and others. They were part of some great offensive lines at Mizzou this decade and deserve their fair share of credit, but it’s hard to slot them into a Top 25 without crediting everyone along the offensive line during those years.)
OK, with that out of the way, here’s how I’d rank Mizzou’s Top 25 players of the decade:
25. Zaviar Gooden, LB (2010-12)
Gooden started his career in 2009, but his best seasons came in 2010 and 2011. He finished his career with 256 total tackles (20.5 for a loss), 4 sacks, 5 interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 3 fumble recoveries. He was so versatile as a linebacker and didn’t need to be solely a tackling machine because of the guy at No. 23 on this list.
24. Damarea Crockett, RB (2016-18)
Crockett could have finished higher had he returned for the 2019 season, but he still had a great Mizzou career. He ran for 2,252 and scored 21 touchdowns in Columbia.
23. Andrew Wilson, LB (2010-13)
Wilson handled a lot of the dirty work for the 2010-13 Mizzou defenses. His 334 career tackles and 5 forced fumbles speak for themselves.
22. L’Damian Washington, WR (2010-13)
Washington was the ultimate big-play threat at Mizzou. Playing for the Tigers’ less-dynamic offenses of the early 2010s, he averaged 17.4 yards per catch, recording 1,735 yards and 15 touchdowns.
21. Emanuel Hall, WR (2015-18)
Oh, hey, speaking of deep threats, how about Drew Lock’s favorite big-play receiver? Hall averaged 24.8 yards per catch in 2017 and 22.8 yards per grab in 2018. If he could have stayed healthy, he would have been much higher on this list.
20. Braylon Webb, DB (2011-14)
Webb was a hard-hitting, big-play-making safety for some of the best Tigers defenses in recent history. He had 159 tackles and 7 picks during his junior and senior seasons, which just so happened to coincide with Mizzou’s 2 SEC East titles.
19. Cale Garrett, LB (2016-19)
Garrett has been a leader of the Mizzou defense for the past 3 years as the Tigers have started to turn things around. If he hadn’t gotten injured 5 games into the 2019 season, he could have had a special year. He already had 3 interceptions, 2 of which he returned for touchdowns, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in those 5 games.
18. Aarion Penton, DB (2013-16)
Penton finished his career with 10 interceptions, including 5 during his senior season. He returned 1 for a touchdown and also had 12 pass breakups that year.
17. E.J. Gaines, DB (2010-13)
Gaines was a versatile corner who gets the edge over Penton because of the way he would mix it up in the running game. He made 244 tackles during his career to go with his 8 interceptions and 20 pass breakups. Oh, and he also returned a punt for a touchdown in 2011.
16. Terry Beckner Jr., DL (2015-18)
Beckner was one of the highest-rated commits in Mizzou history, and after suffering a pair of devastating knee injuries in his freshman and sophomore seasons, he lived up to that billing as a junior and senior. In 2017 and 2018, TBJ combined for 69 tackles, 10.5 sacks and an interception. That’s incredible production from the defensive tackle spot.
15. Blaine Gabbert, QB (2010)
Gabbert only played one season at Mizzou this decade, but he led the Tigers to a 10-2 regular-season record. That year featured a homecoming victory over No. 3 Oklahoma (which was a lot of fun to be at, by the way) and a 35-7 shellacking of rival Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium. Gabbert threw for 3,186 yards and 16 touchdowns that season, adding 5 more scores as a rusher. Then, he declared for the 2011 NFL Draft, where he was the No. 10 overall pick.
14. Kony Ealy, DL (2011-13)
Ealy took advantage of a truly monstrous junior season (43 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 9 sacks, 1 interception that he returned for a touchdown, 4 forced fumbles and 6 pass breakups) to head to the NFL. He was a huge part of that 2013 defense that helped the Tigers win the SEC East.
13. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (2012-13)
DGB’s 2013 season was one of the best for a Mizzou receiver this decade. He had 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns, proving that the Tigers had players capable of competing in the SEC. (Oh, by the way, Mizzou won the SEC East that year.) He’d be higher on the list if off-the-field issues didn’t force the Tigers to dismiss him from the program.
12. Sheldon Richardson, DL (2011-12)
Richardson only played 2 years for the Tigers, but he showed he could dominate any opposing offensive lineman. Defensive tackles aren’t usually getting 75 tackles per season, but that’s what Richardson did in 2012. He also had 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 pass breakups that year.
11. Marcus Murphy, RB/KR (2010-14)
Murphy was the smallest guy on the field most of the time, but he was an absolute game-changer. He ran for 1,957 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding 318 yards and 2 scores as a receiver. But his greatest impact might have come on special teams, as he returned 3 kickoffs and 4 punts for touchdowns during his illustrious career.
10. Charles Harris, DL (2014-16)
Harris improved his sack and tackle numbers each of his 3 years in Columbia, finishing the 2016 season with 61 tackles and 9 sacks. His spin move was nearly impossible to stop, and he made opposing quarterbacks miserable.
9. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE (2017-19)
Albert O played in 9 games each of his 3 active seasons at Mizzou, as he had trouble with some injuries. However, his impact when he was on the field was huge. He finished his career with 23 touchdown catches and was one of the best red-zone threats Mizzou has ever had.
8. James Franklin, QB (2010-13)
Franklin had the unenviable task of replacing Blaine Gabbert, and all he did was turn in an incredible 2011 campaign. That year, Franklin threw for 21 touchdowns and 2,865 yards while also running for 981 yards and 15 scores. That’s 36 total touchdowns for those keeping score.
He also had to lead the Tigers through the Big 12-to-SEC transition. In his senior year, he led the Tigers to an SEC East title by throwing for 19 touchdowns and running for 4 more.
7. Markus Golden, DL/LB (2012-14)
Golden was a key part of the Tigers’ defensive line for both of their SEC East titles, recording 14.5 career sacks, an interception, 5 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries. Those were some great D-Line U years, and we still have a couple of players from that era left to come on this list (spoiler alert).
6. J’Mon Moore, WR (2014-17)
Moore is the Tigers’ leader in receiving yards and touchdowns for the 2010s, recording 2,477 yards and 21 scores. He also had 2 1,000-yard seasons in 2016 and 2017. He was a key part of Josh Heupel’s high-flying offenses and a favorite target for QB Drew Lock.
5. Henry Josey, RB (2010-13)
With 2,771 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns, Josey led the Tigers in both categories this decade. And, he did it in only 3 seasons before leaving for the NFL. Who knows what could have happened if he didn’t suffer a serious leg injury late in the 2011 season that caused him to miss all of 2012.
He was certainly back to full strength by 2013, though, finishing the year with 1,166 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. That was a huge reason the Tigers won their 1st SEC East title.
4. Kentrell Brothers, LB (2012-15)
Brothers’ 358 total tackles are tied for No. 8 on Mizzou’s all-time list. He had 152 tackles (12 for a loss) as a senior in 2015. He also finished his Mizzou career with 5 interceptions, 4.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles. He’s everything you’d want in a linebacker and he was an essential part of some great Missouri defenses.
3. Michael Sam, DL (2010-13)
Sam was an ultimate leader for the Tigers, in addition to being a heck of a pass rusher. He finished his career with 18.5 sacks and was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Sam was versatile, too, forcing 5 fumbles, snagging 2 interceptions and swatting down 4 passes during his impressive career. He proved that the Tigers could hang with the physicality of the SEC.
2. Shane Ray, DL (2012-14)
Ray’s junior season was one of the most impactful pass-rushing years in Mizzou history. Teaming with Golden, Ray was an absolute destroyer of quarterbacks. His 14.5 sacks in 2014 were the most in a single season in Mizzou history.
He finished his career with 19 sacks in 3 seasons, leading the Tigers in sacks for the decade. He also had 34 tackles for a loss, so he wasn’t just a pass-rush specialist. He was fun to watch and nearly unstoppable for opposing linemen.
1. Drew Lock, QB (2015-18)
This is an easy nod for the No. 1 spot, as Lock finished with some incredible numbers. He had 99 career touchdown passes, good for No. 3 in SEC history, and 12,193 passing yards, good for No. 2 in the SEC record books.
He also set the Mizzou single-season record (and SEC single-season record until Joe Burrow broke it this year) with 44 touchdown passes in 2017. He led the Tigers in almost every passing statistic this decade and led the team to many good wins.
Add in the fact that he took over in 2015 as a true freshman after the suspension of Maty Mauk and helped the Tigers return to bowl games his last 2 seasons and it’s easy to see why Lock is the top player for Mizzou this decade.