Kobie Whiteside looks to the sideline during warmups

Kobie Whiteside looks to the sideline during warmups before the Tigers played the Bulldogs on Nov. 9 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.

As of right now, Missouri does not have a football coach, after Athletic Director Jim Sterk fired Barry Odom.

When and whom are the two biggest questions. The third: Whom will that person coach?

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, defensive lineman Jordan Elliott and center Trystan Colon-Castillo won’t be in the fold. All three are redshirt juniors who declared early for the NFL Draft.

The new coach will need a new quarterback, too. Kelly Bryant, along with a handful of seniors, won’t be back with their eligibility having expired.

There could be more departures between now and the start of the 2020 season, but with the roster that is left, the Missourian took a look at each position on offense Thursday.

Now, here’s a look at who is gone and who remains on the defense and special teams:

Defensive line

Gone: Jordan Elliott (NFL Draft), Franklin Agbasimere (eligibility expired), Tyrell Jacobs (eligibility expired)

Returners: Darius Robinson (sophomore), Chris Daniels (redshirt senior), Jatorian Hansford (junior), Chris Turner (senior), Sci Martin Jr. (redshirt senior), Myles Eaddy (redshirt senior), Antar Thompson (redshirt junior), Kobie Whiteside (senior), Chris Williams (redshirt senior), Markell Utsey (redshirt senior), Z’Core Brooks (sophomore), Tre Williams (redshirt senior), Cannon York (redshirt sophomore), Akial Byers (senior), Keion Willis (redshirt sophomore), Isaiah McGuire (sophomore)

The defensive line doesn’t have a large number of departures, but losing arguably its best player in Elliott is significant. He led Missouri with 8.5 tackles for loss, and his 2.5 sacks were second behind Whiteside, who will return. Having Whiteside back for Missouri is crucial with the loss of Elliott. Whiteside proved to be a force in the middle this past season as he tallied 6.5 sacks. He and Elliott proved to be a solid tandem from which the defensive drew its success at times late in the year. Missouri returns each of its defensive ends in the rotation, but none played so well that they should be automatic starters next season. Keep an eye on McGuire, who played in six games as a true freshman.

Linebackers

Gone: Cale Garrett (eligibility expired), Joe Hoy (eligibility expired)

Returners: Gerald Nathan Jr. (redshirt sophomore), Aubrey Miller Jr. (redshirt junior), Jamal Brooks (senior), Jamie Pettway (sophomore), Nick Bolton (junior), Chad Bailey (redshirt sophomore), Joe Britton (redshirt junior), Bryson Clayton (redshirt sophomore), Cameron Wilkins (junior), Chance May (redshirt junior), Devin Nicholson (sophomore)

Missouri already has an idea of what life is like without Garrett, who missed more than half of the season with a torn pectoral tendon suffered in the Troy game. The senior captain will be missed by a defense that struggled to recover after losing him to injury. Players such as Wilkins, Nicholson and Brooks will likely compete for that spot again in 2020 as all are set to return. Nicholson finished out the year as Garrett’s replacement after Wilkins had the first crack at it. Next to them, there is little doubt that Bolton will be the guy leading the Missouri defense. It’s a fair argument to be made that he was Missouri’s best player this past season, a breakout year for the linebacker. He tallied 100 total tackles, a sack, eight passes defensed and two interceptions, one of which he took for a touchdown.

Defensive backs

Gone: DeMarkus Acy (eligibility expired), Richaud Floyd (eligibility expired), Khalil Oliver (eligibility expired), Ronnell Perkins (eligibility expired),

Returners: Chris Shearin (sophomore), Stacy Brown (redshirt freshman), Jarvis Ware (junior), Chris Mills (redshirt sophomore), Adam Sparks (senior), Christian Holmes (redshirt senior), Ishmael Burdine (redshirt freshman), Aidan Harrison (redshirt freshman), Zion Sales (redshirt junior), Mason Pack (redshirt senior), Jaylen Varner (redshirt freshman), Jalani Williams (redshirt freshman), Tyree Gillespie (senior), Joshuah Bledsoe (senior), Martez Manuel (sophomore)

Acy, Oliver and Perkins logged plenty of snaps for a Tigers defense that was among the best against the pass in the nation for most of the season. Acy showed how valuable he was when he had to miss the last two games with a hamstring injury. Tennessee gashed the Tigers through the air as his replacement, Holmes, was called for multiple pass interference penalties. Ware, the other starting cornerback, will return, which is good news for the Tigers’ pass defense considering how much Holmes and Sparks struggled against the Volunteers. At the safety spot, the Tigers will have two of their best defenders back for one more season in Gillespie and Bledsoe. Manuel, who saw time in relief, will have a chance to compete for the third safety spot.

Specialists

Gone: Kicker Tucker McCann (eligibility expired), punt returner Richaud Floyd (eligibility expired)

Returning: Kickers Sean Koetting (redshirt junior), Matthew Jaeger (redshirt sophomore), Parker Willis (redshirt freshman), Aaron Rodriguez (redshirt freshman) and Logan Brock (redshirt freshman), punter Josh Dodge (redshirt sophomore), long snappers Jake Hoffman (redshirt sophomore), Drew Wise (senior), James Workman (redshirt senior)

The Tigers return all specialists but two, but they are two of the most vital to the group. Missouri loses McCann, its kicker and punter this past season, after a solid senior year from him. He did not regress at all as a kicker despite handling punting duties. He finished with the exact same field goal percentage of 72.7. Missouri also loses Floyd, who returned a punt for a 71-yard touchdown this season. He averaged about 13.7 yards per punt return in his final year as a Tiger.

  • Nick Kelly is a Missouri football reporter for the Columbia Missourian. A native of Minneapolis, Minn., he is studying magazine writing and business. Previously, he covered sports for The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic.

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