Missouri left tackle Tyler Howell will face the toughest test of his career Saturday at Neyland Stadium when he spend the afternoon lined up across from Tennessee junior defensive end Derek Barnett.
“He’s all over the place,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said when asked about Barnett said. “He’s disruptive. It’s difficult when you look at him in a one-on-one matchup, because he usually wins it. Just like I thought about (Vanderbilt linebacker Zach) Cunningham last week, Barnett can take over a game at times, so we’ll have to do a great job on making sure we get some help wherever he’s lined up.”
Mizzou right tackle Paul Adams, who grew up near Barnett in Nashville and has played against him since middle school, plans to offer Howell whatever help he can.
“You’ve just got to watch a lot of tape to see his tendencies and whatnot,” Adams said, adding: “I could tell him a few things, but I don’t know if it’s media-friendly. But there’s some things I’ll tell (Howell). Don’t worry. I’ll be chirping in (Barnett’s) ear as well.”
Adams praised Barnett’s lightning-quick first step, his knowledge of the game and work ethic.
“We played each other in middle school and kind of build a relationship then,” Adams said. “From basketball and football in high school, we became a lot closer. … In high school as a freshman, you looked at his size and knew he had the complete build for this game.”
Adams even tried to convince Barnett to join him with the Tigers.
“Obviously, it didn’t work out too well,” Adams said. “Tennessee got him, but he said he loved this place and it was definitely his second choice.”
Missouri’s hopes for the SEC East crown evaporated a few weeks ago, but Tennessee still has a path at Atlanta.
If underdog Florida loses at LSU, the Volunteers can win the division by beating the Tigers and Vanderbilt next week.
Mizzou’s aware of what’s at stake.
“We definitely know about that,” Adams said. “We wouldn’t mind being the villains of the weekend. It is what it is, so we wouldn’t mind beating them and kind of ruining their chances. I’m sure there’s a lot of people in Gainesville rooting for us for the first time ever.”
Now, let’s answer some reader questions:
Honestly, going into the tournament, I expected a win — one — so anything more than that is gravy in my eyes. Missouri should be no worse than 8-4 in the nonconference season. That assumed losses against Xavier, Clemson or Davidson during the second game in Orlando, versus Arizona (Dec. 10) and against Illinois (Dec. 23). It’s uninspiring, I know, but that’s a minimum expectation.
After seeing the Tigers take Xavier to overtime, I’ve readjusted my expectations. Maybe 3-1 overall and a fifth-place finish at the Tire Pros Invitational should be the goal. If I’m Mizzou and third-year coach Kim Anderson, that’s the expectation as I wake up Friday morning.
The Tigers should be substantially improved when Jordan Barnett becomes eligible Dec. 17 versus Eastern Illinois. Will that propel them last Illinois a few days later? Maybe, but Anderson and many observers, including myself, are banking on that boosting Mizzou’s chances in SEC play. There are going to be a lot of toss-up games in the conference this season, I suspect. Anderson’s crew might lose a few games fans expect them to win, but they might upset a few teams who are expected to outclass them.
Early in the season, though, any success above and beyond expectations — and any major-conference win or even knocking off Davidson would count — only serve to ramp up the optimism, at least in my mind.
Not really. Walton remains inconsistent off the bounce and doesn’t have nearly as good of an outside shot as Frankie Hughes or Cullen VanLeer. It’s pretty clear already that Hughes needs to be logging major minutes and deserves it. He’s the first freshman in Tigers history with back-to-back 20-point games to start his career after going for 23 against Alabama A&M and 24 against Xavier. He’ll be getting 25 against Davidson and averaging 50 a game by February, right?
Walton isn’t substantially better than VanLeer defensively at this point. Plus, I like the energy and potential to attack the rim Walton brings off the bench. Unless and until he starts producing, I just don’t see it. He had a turnover and two fouls in 8 minutes against Xavier. Perhaps fans expected more based on recruiting ranking and perceived efficiency, but right now he’s been more potential than production.
Did that not already happen on Monday? Surely, it will happen Nov. 26 before the Northwestern State game when the Tigers return to Mizzou Arena.
I love this question. Love it. Thanks, Joey. Obviously, Charles Harris tops that list. He’s got eight sacks and was named SEC defensive lineman of the week after registering 2 1/2 sacks with a career-high nine tackles, including 3 1/2 for a loss, against Vanderbilt. He’s been widely considered a first-round pick since last spring and, despite the relative lack of production early in the season, I don’t see any indication that assessment has changed.
Technically, there are 33 other draft-eligible players on the Tigers’ two-deep roster, but many — Tyler Howell, Kevin Pendleton, Sam Bailey, Adam Ploudre, Alec Abeln, Paul Adams, Kendall Blanton, Jason Reese, Marvin Zanders, Ish Witter, Marcell Frazier, Jordan Harold, A.J. Logan, Spencer Williams, Joey Burkett, Brandon Lee, Eric Beisel, Logan Cheadle and Thomas Wilson — aren’t going anywhere.
Michael Stannard, Eric Laurent, Chris Black, Jake Brents and Alex Ross aren’t NFL-caliber guys, though if someone like Black or Ross tested exceptionally well during Mizzou’s Pro Day, he could merit an invitation to rookie minicamp (a la, former Tigers tight end Eric Waters). It’s possible a specialist like long snapper Jake Hurrell also could wind up in camp, but he won’t get drafted.
The same probably applies to tight end Sean Culkin, linebacker Donavin Newsom, cornerback John Gibson and defensive tackles Rickey Hatley and Josh Augusta — all will have a shot to make a training camp, but it’s hard to see any getting drafted. That leaves four other guys besides Harris. There’s a caveat with Augusta, because size is something that can’t be taught and he has specialist athleticism for his size.
Senior linebacker Michael Scherer didn’t have a draftable grade before the season, according to CBS Sports. His speed, athleticism and ability to cover/play in space would have been a concern for NFL teams, but his production would have forced most teams to take a look. Unfortunately, the season-ending knee injury, a torn ACL and MCL he suffered Oct. 22 against Middle Tennessee, really hurts his chances at pro career. It almost certainly means he won’t get drafted.
I don’t expect junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore or Anthony Sherrils to leave. Both have been OK this season and have NFL speed, but both also need a lot more polish. It would probably be a mistake for either to leave Mizzou right now, but both could creep into the draft discussion with strong senior seasons in 2017.
That leaves senior cornerback Aarion Penton, who was a fringe prospect before the season then played really well during the first half of the season but has fallen off during the last month. This seems to be a deep cornerback class, especially if some of the big-name underclassmen — guys like Florida’s Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson — decide to turn pro. Penton lacks ideal size, but he’s a good cover corner and willing tackler. He’s actually pretty good against the run. He’s probably not quite at the level of Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines, a Fort Osage and Mizzou graduate. Gaines has stuck in the NFL, but it’s worth remembering he also was a sixth-round pick.
With Harris pretty much being a lock, assuming he comes out, the over-under on Mizzou draft picks would be set at one and it wouldn’t be worth putting money on either side of the line.
I thought you’d never ask. I should have remaining eligibility, but I’m not a Mizzou student and it would be a conflict of interest to enroll. But, shoot, kicking extra points in Neyland? I’d be down with that. It’d be a mammoth experience. You kidding me?