The 2021 Missouri Tigers look to lean heavily on their offense. What teams’ defense could give the Tigers trouble?
The best defense is a good offense.
This adage applies in war, board games, and the courtroom. The gridiron is no exception. Especially in college football.
That is for another day though. The SEC is no stranger to top-tier defensive units. The Alabama Crimson Tide fielded two of the best defenses ever, in 1979 and 1992. The 2004 Auburn Tigers had one of the best defenses in the 21st century thanks to Gene Chizik, only allowing 12 points per game.
There are many more, but this upcoming season has some units that could certainly take their place as the best the SEC has ever seen.
To be fair, Missouri is no slouch on defense in 2021.
Led by 2020 first team All-SEC defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat, the Tigers added transfers to offset lost talent. Linebacker Blaze Aldridge looks to finish his collegiate career with a bang. Former Tulsa Hurricanes cornerbacks Akayleb Evans and Allie Green IV provide an immediate upgrade to the secondary. Former NFL head coach and current Missouri defensive coordinator Steve Wilks joined the Tigers in 2021, much to the pleasure of head coach Eliah Drinkwitz.
Drinkwitz said the following during SEC Media Days, according to the Tennesseean:
"“We added a new defensive coordinator in Steve Wilks, a guy with tremendous NFL pedigree and experience and also coaching in college football. A coach who is just a tremendous leader of men and a motivator of players, and excited about the scheme that he’s going to bring and the energy he brings to the football field every day.”"
The pieces are there for a good defensive unit. But it probably won’t be great this year.
Drinkwitz has been on a recruiting tear since taking his position at Missouri. It is rare though that a true freshman or even redshirt freshman can come in and make an immediate impact in the SEC. Defensive line recruits such as Jalen Marshall and Marquis Gracial figure to produce for the Tigers, but in 2022 and on. There are teams that the Tigers will face this year that is looking to compete and impose their defensive will on opponents in 2021.
As a whole, the Tigers’ defense took a big step back in 2020. Just for comparison:
- 2019 Missouri Tigers SEC Defensive Rankings
- 3rd in yards per game (312)
- 6th in points per game (19.4)
- 2nd in passing yards per game (179.3)
- 6th in rushing yards per game (123.8)
- 2020 Missouri Tigers SEC Defensive Rankings
- 7th in yards per game (406.9)
- 9th in points per game (32.3)
- 5th in passing yards per game (245.8)
- 7th in rushing yards per game (161.1)
Allowing nearly 13 extra points per game and 100 overall yards is huge regression for defense, even considering the weird 2020 season circumstances.
Other SEC East teams still fielded dominate defenses in 2020. Teams such as the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs are perennial top SEC defenses, while the Texas A&M Aggies were a top defense in 2020.
Moving on from 2020, which Tigers opponents are looking to lean on their defense for success?