By: Nate Smith
As Missouri prepares to face Wyoming on Saturday night, excitement is mounting in Columbia. Before heading to Laramie, the Tigers were back at practice Tuesday morning, with NFL scouts looking on. True road openers are rare for Missouri, having only played in five such games since 1980. Despite this, Saturday’s opponent comes as no stranger; the Tigers defeated the Cowboys 40-13 at Faurot Field to open last season. The Missouri defense came through in a big way, holding Wyoming to 248 total yards. The secondary had a lot to do with that, holding Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to 160 yards passing, while only completing 13 of 28 attempts.
Flash forward to this season and the defense will once again look to stifle Wyoming, this time in the mountains. When Wyoming drops back to pass, Missouri will have the advantage thanks to their deepest secondary in recent memory. Last season, Mizzou cornerbacks Christian Holmes (40.8%) and DeMarkus Acy (46.8%) finished first and fifth respectively among all SEC cornerbacks in completion percentage allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
However, when the official depth chart was released yesterday morning, Holmes surprisingly wasn’t listed as a starter. But as we found out from Barry Odom, there’s more to the story than that. Jarvis Ware had one of the best off-seasons of anybody on the team, and by all accounts earned a starting spot because of his hard work and rapid improvement. Ware will be joined in the starting lineup by Acy, now a senior captain. While Christian Holmes isn’t listed as a starter by name, he’s certainly not a backup. Speaking Tuesday, Odom said, “we have three starters at [cornerback].” In his press conference, Odom reiterated multiple times that he views depth charts as situational, fluid, and matchup-based, saying Acy, Holmes, and Ware will all receive “pretty equal snaps.”
Mizzou will not have to face preseason All American wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Alabama this year, but they will be heavily relying on their defensive backs nonetheless. Even in a year when many say the Tigers have “a fairly easy schedule”, SEC play is still unforgiving. Although impressive quarterbacks like Georgia’s Jake Fromm will present a challenge for Missouri, it’s one they will be ready for. The Tigers play the Bulldogs on November 9th in Athens, GA. But for now, the focus remains squarely on August 31st. As Missouri wide receiver Johnathan Nance put it when asked about another SEC team, “[we’re just worried about] going to play Wyoming on Saturday.”