University of Missouri

Missouri football is optimistic Jordan Elliott can be ‘D-Line Zou’’s next star

Christian Holmes talks about David Gibbs

Missouri cornerback Christian Holmes talks about new cornerbacks coach David Gibbs and his emphasis on turnovers.
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Missouri cornerback Christian Holmes talks about new cornerbacks coach David Gibbs and his emphasis on turnovers.

Between 2011 and 2017, Missouri had six defensive linemen taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. The last two years have produced zero.

Jordan Elliott thinks he can change that.

The 6-foot-4 defensive lineman has drawn perhaps the most offseason hype for the Tigers aside from quarterback Kelly Bryant. Missouri’s coaching staff has praised Elliott since the spring, believing he can become one of the best linemen the program has produced.

“He looks good,” said Barry Odom, MU’s coach. “He’s really quick. Plays with some violence. The change of direction has improved a lot. He’s as skilled of a guy as we’ve had at that position.”

After transferring from Texas in 2016, Elliott sat out 2017 before playing in 13 games and recording just three sacks last year. All three came in the regular season finale against Arkansas.

So given Elliott’s lack of production in 2018, why all the hype?

For starters, Elliott’s body is different. He played at 320 pounds and has lost more than 20. He also hopes to shave off a few more before the season opener Aug. 31.

Defensive line coach Brick Haley said Elliott’s effort has improved after he occasionally took plays off last season or didn’t do everything he could have on a play. After Elliott’s three-sack performance against Arkansas, Haley said it was a start, but Elliott had better games in him.

This summer, Elliott came in with a new attitude. His body is more fit to regularly get pressure on quarterbacks and he’s invested in maximizing his potential. Some of MU’s coaches believe Elliott has the highest draft potential on the roster and Elliott has looked at it as motivation rather than a distraction.

“I’m not ever going to ignore what’s out there,” he told The Star. “At the same time I’m not focused on it. Whatever they’re saying about me I’m all ears but I’m going to keep working.”

Elliott clarified that he doesn’t plan to ignore the draft talk, but not get caught up in it. It’s there for a reason and it’s on him to see it through.

Haley originally recruited Elliott to Texas. He said he knew his longtime pupil was ready to improve when he saw him go out of his way to teach underclassmen in the spring and summer. The past August, Elliott was preparing for his own season and trying to kick off the rust. Now he’s going out of his way to make sure the newcomers are understanding Haley’s teachings.

“He’s got a mindset that says he wants to be here and he wants to be good,” Haley said. “He wants to do the things he needs to be an elite player. He’s doing those on a daily basis. He’s really bought in and been a team dude. To me that’s huge.”

Elliott and Haley said when MU was playing a lot of underclassmen, the players found themselves learning the defense more than running it.

Haley said the conversation has been flipped and the time for learning is over. Missouri has lacked an elite pass rush in the past few seasons and needs an improved defense to compliment a high-powered offense run by Bryant. That starts with Elliott and his teammates.

“Everyone is really just focused and locked in,” Elliott said. “The smaller details are what we’re worried about right now. The foundation is already down pat. We had a good summer. That’s the advantage that we have. The experience. Everyone is on board and on the same page.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.