University of Missouri

How Mizzou feels about Tre Williams’ performance on the defensive line through two games

Barry Odom on SEMO

Missouri coach Barry Odom previews the Tigers game against the SEMO RedHawks.
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Missouri coach Barry Odom previews the Tigers game against the SEMO RedHawks.

When Tre Williams rejoined Missouri’s football team after a nine-month suspension while facing a domestic assault charge, expectations for the junior this season were cloudy.

Williams was arrested in December and suspended during spring football, but was allowed to return to the team after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for disturbing the peace.

Now two games into the season, Williams appears to be primed for more playing time after a strong game against West Virginia.

In Missouri’s 37-31 season-opening loss at Wyoming, Williams and the rest of the defensive line were a non-factor as the Cowboys put up nearly 300 yards rushing. In the 38-7 West Virginia victory, Williams had a quarterback hurry and was part of a unit that made 13 tackles-for-loss, MU’s most since a 2015 win at Arkansas State. Missouri also held West Virginia to just 30 yards rushing.

In August, defensive line coach Brick Haley said it was obvious Williams was out of shape. Williams had a chance at multiple sacks against the Mountaineers, but Haley said part of that was because MU was regularly rotating him in to keep him fresh.

“I don’t think he’s into season shape,” Haley said. “I think he’s getting there, I think he proved that. He got a bit winded as we went through the ball game. He has to continue to work and get some extra work in.”

Williams worked out on his own while he was away from the team, but that has its limits as he wasn’t going against players in practice or breaking down film with MU’s coaches. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said it’s been easier to bring Williams back up to speed because he’s a veteran player and has been around the program.

When MU released its first depth chart of preseason camp, Williams wasn’t listed. He worked his way back into the starting lineup on Saturday in just a month. The 6-foot-5 junior was a starter for MU in 2018.

While Williams has been ahead of schedule working his way back into the rotation, MU’s defensive line is still in flux. The Tigers have just two sacks on the line through two games and could still see movement at the position if it struggles. Missouri will likely get sophomore Trajan Jeffcoat back for next week’s Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina and could move defensive tackle Akail Byers to end if the pass rush is lacking.

But Saturday’s performance by Williams is something to build off of in Haley’s eyes.

“He understands the system,” Haley said. He came out and played a good game. When he was in there he did a good job. I think it’s building confidence in him.”

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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.