They’re still around and are playing a larger role than any of us expected
You can read the offensive version of this article here. As in, the version of this break down about the offense, not a version of this article with racial slurs and f-bombs.
Despite the herculean recruiting efforts of Eli Drinkwitz’s staff and a hyper-active transfer portal, there are still players on the Missouri roster that were offered a scholarship under the Odom regime. And not only are they still around but a good chunk of them are projected to be major contributors on the 2022 team.
Now, yes, each player had to weigh his options and choose to stay on the team after the regime change, and, yes, the Drinkwitz staff had to choose to keep them on the team and blah blah blah…point is, I’m classifying any player who committed to Mizzou and earned their scholarship before November 30th, 2019 as an Odom guy and anyone who earned their scholarship after that date as a Drinkwitz guy. Cool?
With that bifurcation of the roster established, we’re going to review the defensive holdovers on Drinkwitz’s Missouri team that were recruited by Odom:
Chad Bailey – Linebacker – Redshirt Senior
Odom didn’t sign many blue-chip recruits during his 4-year tenure – 7 committed to Mizzou, 6 showed up on campus – and when he did, they were usually on the defensive side. Bailey was one of those rare 4-star signees and, over his first three years on campus, he seemed to be the perfect representation of the Odom era: lots of excitement and potential, not much results. But halfway through the ‘21 campaign – right around the time the defensive staff collectively said “eff it we’ll try anything”, Bailey replaced Devin Nicholson and experience a renaissance: 54 tackles, 4 TFLs, 11 run stuffs, a forced fumble, and a sack in 472 snaps, mostly concentrated in the last six games of the year. That’s the sort of production fans wanted to see from the blue-chip Texan and something this defense is going to need to be reliably replicated heading into ‘22.
Jaylon Carlies – Safety – Junior
Carlies forced his way into the safety rotation in ‘20 and made the position his own in ‘21. His 4 INTs lead the team last year while ranking third in total tackles. He might not have the name recognition of his battery mate in the safety corps (reviewed below) but Carlies is an experienced, reliable piece in a secondary that’s getting a hard reset on the edges.
Trajan Jeffcoat – Defensive End – Redshirt Senior
Trajan has had an interesting college football career, committing to the Tigers in the 2018 recruiting class, leaving the team during the 2019 season, and then coming back once Drinkwtiz took over in 2020. While he had a noticeable freshman campaign under Odom, the fanbase didn’t really get to see what he could do until he seized the starting role in ‘20 and had himself an All-SEC caliber year. He had a lot more attention paid to him last year which caused a dip in the negative play production stats but he’s a bona fide SEC starting end in a position group that could see a huge bounce back in ‘22.
Tyler Jones – Safety – Redshirt Sophomore
Jones was seemingly a package deal with fellow West Orange High School teammate Jaylon Carlies as they committed to Mizzou on the same day. Jones has struggled to see the field, however, as he has not logged and defensive stats in his two-year career with the team.
Martez Manuel – Safety – Senior
The local 3-star Rock Bridge product saw rotational usage in ‘19 and seized the starting safety position in ‘20. Manuel is the size of a corner but plays like a linebacker, performing well enough and earning the praise of his teammates to be voted a team captain last year and taken to Atlanta last week as the player contingent to SEC Media Days. He’s fast, disruptive, and can lay down a beating on anyone who comes over the middle. Odom brought in a lot of great defensive talent so it’s hard to pinpoint who is the best that remains but Manuel is certainly one of the most important.
Isaiah McGuire – Defensive End – Senior
Clearly the defensive line was a noticeable issue last year but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of talent. McGuire played emergency defensive tackle in ‘20 but was able to cook at his natural spot as a strongside defensive end last year and he took off: 15 TFLs, 6 sacks, 12 run stuffs, 2 passes broken up and a forced fumble. If he was making a tackle, on average, it was less than two yards from the line of scrimmage. He and Jeffcoat will be looked to as the pressure creators for this season and Isaiah certainly looks primed to deliver.
Devin Nicholson – Linebacker – Senior
Devin Nicholson started splitting reps with the aforementioned Chad Bailey halfway through the year but has been a serviceable linebacker for several years. He was thrust into a starting role in the COVID season and produced at a reliable rate, even securing the game-winning interception against South Carolina. Whether he and Bailey continue to split reps at the MIKE spot or he slots somewhere else, Nicholson is a battle-tested piece with plenty of experience.
Will Norris – Linebacker – Redshirt Sophomore
Despite the shallow depth of the linebacking pool, Norris has yet to see the field in any extended capacity. He had some reps against North Texas last year and will be looking to crack the rotation this year.
Darius Robinson – Defensive Tackle – Senior
Darius Robinson has been the ultimate tease since he first took the field in 2019. When he’s on the field he’s incredibly disruptive, consistently splitting double teams and blowing up the flow of any given play. But he has been injured for most of his career in Columbia, seeing only 471 snaps over his three years on campus. He has clearly become a vocal leader of the team and, hopefully, he can stay healthy enough to lead on the field as well and provide that disruptive presence the line so desperately needs.
Jalani Williams – Safety – Redshirt Junior
Another rare Odom blue-chip recruit, Williams has been a rotational piece for the past three years. Granted, it’s tough to see the field when you have both Jaylon Carlies and Martez Manuel hogging most of the snaps! Williams has yet to have any standout moments on the field but will certainly be looked to as a reliable backup for both safety slots.
While there are only 10 Odom recruits left on the 42-man defensive roster, you could reasonably talk yourself into seeing those guys taking up 8 positions worth of starter-level snaps. As a reminder, the defense only fields 11 players so those 8 guys that make up 24% of the defensive roster could represent 73% of the defensive starter spots.
Obviously, “starting” doesn’t mean much but starter-level snaps is what we’d be looking at. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the highly-rated blue-chip recruits finally unseat the Odom holdovers or if Drink continues to go to the well of the older/more experienced players to get the job done.