First off, I need to give a hat tip to ESPN for the idea.
Based on its too-early top 25 rankings for next season, the sports broadcasting titan picked the top player from each team who could have been a football star in another life.
Missouri didn’t make ESPN’s offseason ranking, so the Tigers were left out of the exercise.
Still, it got the wheels turning and I took it a step farther.
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Mizzou is 2-0 in exhibition games in Italy. With a couple days’ break coming up, here is a rundown of the top five players we’d like to see on the gridiron during the interim:
5. Frankie Hughes, 6-4, 187, Cleveland
Hughes is a tall, slender, quick athlete. Presumably, he’s got good hands and would make a nice target on the outside as a wide receiver. Mizzou is going to ask him to shoulder a scoring load on the hardwood this season, but we also suspect he could some scoring by taking the top off opposing defenses at Memorial Stadium.
4. Jakoby Kemp, freshman, 6-9, 215, Layton, Utah
Kemp’s brother, Marcus, plays wide receiver at Hawaii, so obviously he’s got the genes to succeed on the gridiron. Kemp is still growing into his 6-foot-9 frame after shooting up several inches each of the last couple summers. He’s also got plenty of muscle he can add to that frame, which could make it a monster tight end or defensive end, depending on how quick of a first step he could develop.
3. Willie Jackson, freshman, 6-6, 212, Cleveland
Remember when people used to talk about what a monster LeBron James might have been had he chosen football and played defensive end at Ohio State? Jackson could have done the same thing with a different weightlifting regimen. He’s got a rock-solid frame and enough tenacity to think he’d be suited as an edge rusher, especially with his speed. Mizzou needs him to be a defensive stopper and any scoring he can provide is a welcome boost in year one.
2. Jordan Barnett, junior, 6-7, 215, St. Louis
A Texas transfer, Barnett has the size and intellect to play tight end. He boasts a sturdy build and a team-first mentality, which would be useful at the often thankless job of blocking on the edge and being featured only sporadically in the passing game. Still, with his skills he’d be a great red-zone target and a tough matchup for either linebackers, who lack his athleticism, or safeties, who lack his size. Barnett will become eligible Dec. 17, the Tigers’ 10th game of the season after a midseason transfer last year.
1. Terrence Phillips, 5-11, 180, Orange County, Calif.
He’s explosive, look no further than the repeated leaps over scoring tables attempting to save possessions on the boundary last season for evidence of that. He’s smart, like all good point guards are. He’s a leader and he’s vocal, two good traits for a safety in football — a position that requires intelligence and effective communication. Don’t be fooled by Phillips’ cheery demeanor, he’s fearless and could be a thumper on the back end of a football defense.
Honorable mentions: MLB Kevin Puryear, S K.J. Walton, P Brett Rau*
* Rau played goalkeeper for his high school soccer team, so he’s used to directional kicking already. Although, we’re not convinced he could beat out Freshman All-American Corey Fatony.