Next men up: 5 biggest holes to fill in Mizzou's 2018 starting lineup
Missouri had an incredible turnaround in the second half of the 2017 season, finishing the regular season 7-5 after starting 1-5. Even a Texas Bowl loss to Texas didn’t completely erase the momentum built by coach Barry Odom’s program.
However, the second-half schedule last season wasn’t exactly full of juggernauts, so the Tigers will again face questions about how well they can compete against good teams.
Still, record-setting QB Drew Lock is back for his senior year and there are some key players on defense who will be ready to take the next step as well.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be roster spots that need to be filled, but they are few and far between for the young Tigers.
Here are the five biggest positions of need and who is in line to step up and have productive 2018 seasons:
Who’s out: J’Mon Moore
Who’s in: Nate Brown
Skinny: Moore had an outstanding career, going over the 1,000-yard mark in 2016 and 2017 with 18 combined receiving TDs. Yes, he had his problems with drops, but he’ll still be tough to replace.
Fortunately, the Tigers have a semi-experienced option waiting in the wings.
Brown caught 11 passes for 89 yards in 2017 and had 27 catches for 326 yards and four scores in 2015. He’ll be counted on to fill Moore’s shoes opposite Emanuel Hall, and he looks capable of doing just that.
Who’s out: Ish Witter
Who’s in: Larry Rountree III
Skinny: Damarea Crockett will almost certainly return to his starting role if he’s fully healthy next year, but replacing Witter won’t be easy.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Rountree got a lot of valuable experience as a freshman, serving as Witter’s backup in 2017 and piling up 703 yards and six touchdowns.
If he can put up numbers like that again in 2018 while backing up Crockett, the Mizzou offense will continue to hum along under new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley.
Who’s out: Marcell Frazier
Who’s in: Frank Agbasimere, Chris Turner
Skinny: Turner will be a sophomore in 2018 and Agbasimere will be a redshirt junior, and both have played sparingly at Mizzou.
However, the coaching staff likes both guys, so expect to see them have bigger roles in 2018.
One will likely take over for the talented Frazier as the starter, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see both get significant playing time opposite Nate Anderson or whoever ends up locking down the other starting job.
Who’s out: A.J. Logan
Who’s in: Markell Utsey, Walter Palmore
Skinny: Logan missed the first six games of the 2017 season with an academic issue, but he was a strong presence at the nose tackle position when he returned.
While he was out, Utsey (a sophomore) and Palmore (a junior transfer) held their own, recording a combined 19 tackles (three for a loss) and one sack.
A lot of attention will be paid to star DT Terry Beckner Jr., so having a player who can help keep him from getting double-teamed on every snap will be important. Whoever has the best spring will likely start, but both will play big roles next year.
Who’s out: Anthony Sherrils
Who’s in: Ronnell Perkins
Skinny: Sherrils was a stalwart in the Mizzou secondary for a couple of years, and he’ll be hard to replace.
Perkins appears ready to step up and fill the strong safety spot. He’s a hard-hitting player who could probably play some linebacker if needed.
He doesn’t have Sherrils’ world-class speed, but he might end up being slightly better in run support, so it’ll be interesting to see how the dynamics shift in the secondary in 2018.