The last-second addition to the 2016 recruiting class wound up being one of the biggest “what if” legends in Tiger history.
Ever wondered what a Mizzou team that was comprised of only Missouri kids would look like? Or wonder how good an only-Texan Mizzou squad would do? Well, you’re in luck! This offseason, the Rock M Masthead is assembling the best team of Mizzou players by state that they graduated high school from. We compiled a list of the significant starters on every team from the year 2000 on and voted on the best players at their position group in order to create three “All-State” Mizzou squads: Team Missouri, Team Texas, and Team USA. Over the next nine weeks you’ll read about these Mizzou Greats that hailed from the respective regions and, hopefully, come away impressed with just how good these fictional teams could actually be.
Missouri’s linebacking corps is flush with familiar names and a few legendary performers. It’s time to see how they stack up and who comes out on top!
The state of Missouri has produced a ton of talented college football players that have played for the Black & Gold, but surprisingly, not a lot of notable linebacking talent. Dedrick Harrington had a solid few years for Pinkel’s rebuilding project, as did Donavin Newsom in 2015 and 2016, but the majority of the linebackers the Show-Me State produces are lumpy-white-dude tackling machines who can play the run but are a total liability in the passing game.
Cale Garrett was a little bit different.
Initially expecting to attend the Naval Academy out of high school, Barry Odom’s staff made a late offer to the Kearney, MO prospect late in the recruiting process of the 2016 class and Garrett jumped at the opportunity to play at the P5 level in the SEC. And midway through his true freshman season, when Michael Scherer tore two ligaments in his leg in the Middle Tennessee upset loss, Garrett was thrust into the limelight as the starting middle linebacker for a young, overwhelmed Tiger team. He proceeded to finish the year with 27 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 passes broken up, and an interception.
He was just getting started.
From 2017-2018 Garrett logged 205 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions over 26 games, giving him averages of 7.8 tackles/0.6 TFLs/0.2 sacks/.08 interceptions per game. Wonder why I broke it down that way? Here’s why:
Garrett’s 2019 was poised to be monstrous. In a five-game stretch Garrett logged 39 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 3 interceptions (and a fumble recovery to boot): that’s an average of 7.8 tackles/0.8 TFLs/0.2 sacks/0.6 interceptions per game. Extrapolate that over a 13-game season and Garrett would/could have finished with 101 tackles/10 TFLs/3 sacks/8 interceptions. As a comparison, 2020’s unanimous All-American Zaven Collins – with similar extrapolated numbers over a 13-game season – would/could have finished with 88 tackles/12 TFLs/6 sacks/7 interceptions…eerily similar, right?
Injuries have robbed many a Mizzou player of their potential, including fellow All-State Team nominees Danario Alexander and Henry Josey. Garrett was a total wrecking ball in 2019 – and the team only won two more games after he was lost for the season – and not being able to see him finish the season was a crime both to him and his career and for Mizzou fans. But for a tantalizing five games in an otherwise lost season, Cale Garrett showed everyone how dynamic of a linebacker he could truly be. He, at least, showed enough to earn Rock M Nation’s masthead seal of approval as the official linebacker of Team Missouri.