University of Missouri

SEC sacks leader: Mizzou’s getting a big lift from this junior defensive lineman

Kobie Whiteside doesn’t remember all of his sacks in Missouri’s win over Troy.

“I looked at the stats and thought I’d only had one,” the junior defensive lineman said this week.

Whiteside, who finished the game with two, now leads the SEC in that category with five sacks in as many games.

“(He’s) just a guy that’s been focused and locked in on trying to make sure he can do everything he can to help this football team,” Missouri defensive line coach Brick Haley said. “I’m really pleased with the production that he’s brought to the table, the quality of minutes that he’s been able to play and the attitude that he brings to practice every day.”

Whiteside, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound Houston, Texas native, isn’t a new face along the Tigers’ defensive front — he’s played in all 12 games each of the last two seasons for Missouri.

He’s just producing at a much higher level this year.

Whiteside has already eclipsed his career totals in sacks and tackles this season. Haley pointed to better practice habits and work ethic as reasons for Whiteside’s success.

Teammate and fellow Houston-area Texan Jordan Elliott said not much has changed in Whiteside’s approach this fall.

“He’s been doing this since he first got here,” Elliott said. “He’s always been an explosive player — I think it’s just the opportunity. Kobie’s been high motor, strong, stout and nobody can move him, so as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, his future’s bright.”

Elliott, named all-SEC second team a season ago by Pro Football Focus, came into the year poised for a breakout season. Whiteside noted the senior’s talent, too, saying he saw him as a “first-round pick.”

To this point, Elliott’s one sack and four tackles for loss are significant, but he and Whiteside seem to bring out the best in each other, specifically when it comes to causing mismatches for opposing offensive lines. Elliott is playing at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, and together they’re a lot to handle.

“They can’t double-team just one person or just lock in on one person,” Elliott said. “If they don’t double-team me, they’re going to double-team him. If they don’t double-team him, it’s the other way around.”

With offenses keying on Elliott, Whiteside said he’s gotten more opportunities for one-on-one matchups this season ... and it’s evident he’s making the most of them.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Haley said. “We’ve got to win our one-on-ones and if we can do that, then we’re gonna have a chance to be really, really good.”

Before wrapping up his interview this week amid preparation for this weekend’s game against Ole Miss, Whiteside hesitated before throwing out one final thought on himself and Elliott.

Whiteside emphasized that he “wasn’t comparing” the duos, but he said he sees something similar to the way he and Elliott work together on the MU defensive line and the defensive front of last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, the Los Angeles Rams.

“You had Aaron Donald and (Ndamukong) Suh,” Whiteside said. “You had to double-team somebody.”

The comparison elicited a chuckle from Elliott.

“I’m nowhere near as talented as either one of those guys,” Elliott said smiling, “but I’ll take that.”

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