2019 Opponent Preview: Missouri Tigers

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    (Photo via Emmalee Reed/Missourian)

    2019 Record: 5-5 overall (2-4, SEC)

    Head Coach: Barry Odom, 4th year, 24-24 overall (12-18, SEC)
    Location: Columbia, Missouri

    Leading Passer: Kelly Bryant (Sr.) — 165-of-264, 2,049 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT
    Leading Rusher: Larry Roundtree (Jr.) — 146 carries, 698 yards, 8 TD, 4.8 YPC
    Leading Receiver: Jonathan Nance (Sr.) — 27 receptions, 410 yards, 3 TD
    Leading Tackler: Nick Bolton (So.) — 88 tackles (61 solo), 7.5 TFL

    Total Offense Rank: 82nd (388.2)
    Passing Offense Rank:
    71st (230.5)
    Rushing Offense Rank: 72nd (157.7)
    Scoring Offense Rank: 86th (26.0)

    Total Defense Rank: 10th (297.6)
    Passing Defense Rank: 6th (165.9)
    Rushing Defense Rank: 34th (131.7)
    Scoring Defense Rank: 19th (19.5)

    Here’s a complete preview of Tennessee’s opponent this Saturday, the Missouri Tigers.

    Offense

    In the words of Missouri offensive coordinator and former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, Mizzou’s offense has been in “football hell” lately.

    Missouri hasn’t scored a touchdown in 30 possessions, it’s averaging 6.8 points per game over the last four games, the running backs combined for just 14 carries last Saturday against Florida, and a wide receiver hasn’t caught a touchdown in SEC play all season long.

    On third down, the Tigers have been terrible as well. Mizzou is converting on third down only 36.7 percent of the time, which ranks 11th in the SEC. In terms of picking up first downs, they rank 10th in the SEC, as the Tigers are picking up on average 20.9 first downs per game.

    Missouri’s offensive success starts and stops with Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant. The South Carolina native arrived with lofty goals of leading the Tigers to Atlanta, but the season hasn’t necessarily gone according to plan. Bryant has been hampered with a hamstring injury all season long, and it prevented him from playing in Missouri’s 27-0 loss to Georgia two weeks ago.

    For the season, Bryant is completing 62.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,049 yards, 14 touchdowns, and six interceptions. On the ground, he’s rushed for 224 yards and a touchdown on 96 carries.

    Bryant’s No. 1 target entering the season was junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. But the big, physical tight end has had a rough season, catching just 26 passes for 306 yards and six touchdowns.

    Missouri’s leading pass catcher has been running back Tyler Badie. The sophomore running back has hauled in 30 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns. As for Mizzou’s leading wide receiver, Memphis native Johnathan Johnson leads the room with 29 catches, but he only has 294 receiving yards and hasn’t caught a touchdown. Jonathan Nance is the team’s leader in receiving yards with 410, to go along with his three touchdowns.

    Though Badie may be Mizzou’s leading pass catcher as a running back, he backs up Larry Roundtree III in the backfield. Roundtree has rushed for 698 yards and eight touchdowns on 146 carries this season. He’s averaging 4.8 yards a carry and 69.8 yards per game.

    As for Badie, he’s rushed for 363 yards and two touchdowns on 87 carries. Badie is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 36.3 yards per game.

    Up front for Missouri, Yasir Durant starts at left tackle, Case Cook starts at left guard, Trystan Colon-Castillo starts at center, Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms starts at right guard, and Larry Borom starts at right tackle. Missouri has given up 22 sacks this season, which is the eighth-most in the SEC.

    Defense

    Though the offense is abysmal for Missouri, Barry Odom’s defense is legit. Even after losing starting linebacker Cale Garrett, the heart-and-soul of the defense, to injury earlier this season, the Tigers still rank within the top five in the SEC in all of the major defensive statistical categories.

    Missouri ranks first in passing yards allowed per game (165.9), second in total defense (297.6), fifth in points allowed (19.5), and fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (131.7).

    In the absence of Garrett, sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton leads Odom’s defense. Bolton leads the SEC in total tackles per game (8.8), as well as solo tackles per game (6.1). In SEC play, he’s averaging 10.2 tackles a contest. Bolton was named by Pro Football Focus as a Midseason Second-Team All-American.

    Cameron Wilkins flanks Bolton at the linebacker position. Wilkins has recorded 32 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and half a sack this season.

    Along with Bolton, defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and Kobi Whiteside combine to form the strength of the defense — the interior. Elliott was also a PFF Midseason All-American along with Bolton. He leads Missouri with nine tackles for a loss, and he has 24 tackles and five TFLs over the last five games.

    Whiteside, on the other hand, recorded his second two-sack performance of his career against Florida last week. He now leads Mizzou with six sacks on the season.

    Junior Chris Turner and sophomore Jatorian Hansford flank the dynamic tackles as Missouri’s starting defensive ends. Turner has made 23 consecutive starts and has two sacks and two tackles for a loss this season. Hansford has 2.5 tackles for a loss but no sacks.

    Statistically, Missouri’s secondary is the best in the SEC. Teams don’t throw in the direction of DeMarkus Acy, who was a 2018 All-SEC second-team honoree. Acy has yet to record an interception this season from his starting corner position, but he’s broken up five passes. Sophomore Jarvis Ware starts opposite of Acy. Ware has three pass breakups this season.

    At safety, juniors Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillispie serve as Odom’s starters. Bledsoe is third on the team in tackles with 42, while Gillispie is fourth with 40. Neither have recorded an interception this season, but they’ve combined for 12 pass breakups. Bledsoe’s seven breakups are a team-high.

    Senior Khalil Oliver serves as the team’s starting nickel corner. Oliver has tallied six pass breakups, 29 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and a sack this season.

    Special Teams

    Missouri’s special teams has not been good this season.

    The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC in kickoff returns (17.9), 8th in punt return average (10.9), 10th in kickoff coverage (39.5), 12th in field goals (13-of-20), seventh in punting (38.9), and 13th in extra points (three misses).

    Tucker McCann serves as Missouri’s kicker. McCann is 13-for-19 on his field goals this season with a long of 52 yards. He’s 3-for-3 between 20-and-29-yards, 4-for-6 between 30-and-39-yards, 5-for-7 between 40-and-49-yards, and 1-for-3 beyond 50 yards. McCann has also struggled with extra points this season, as he’s missed three.

    McCann also serves as Missouri’s punter. He’s punted 56 times for an average of 43.2 yards per punt. His long on the season went for 62 yards. McCann has had 18 punts go longer than 50 yards and has pinned 21 punts inside the 20-yard line.

    Badie leads the team in kickoff returns with six. He’s averaging 19.2 yards per return.

    Senior Richaud Floyd is Missouri’s punt returner. Floyd has already returned one punt for a touchdown this season, and he is averaging 13.6 yards per return.



    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.