Expectations are high for Barry Odom and the Missouri Tigers heading into 2018. With quarterback Drew Lock and eight other offensive starters returning, Missouri figures to have one of the most potent offenses in the SEC.
Whether that, plus an improved defense, is enough to challenge Georgia in the SEC East remains to be seen, but there is little reason the Tigers can’t at least compete for second in the division.
To do so, the Tigers need some help from their 2018 recruiting class, particularly on defense. Below, we take a look at the signees who have the best chance to see significant playing time in the upcoming season.
Harry Ballard, WR
Depending on how you classify running back Damarea Crockett (injured for much of 2017), Missouri returns all but one starter on offense in 2018. But that missing piece, two-time 1,000-yard wide receiver J’Mon Moore, is a big one, and one of Missouri’s five receiver signees, plus 2017 holdover Da’Ron Davis (provided he qualifies academically), will need to step up in Moore’s absence.
Though it could be any one of those players, Ballard is the most likely of the group as the lone JUCO player. That experience, plus the fact that Ballard is a big, physical receiver — similar to Moore — should give him every shot at early playing time and, perhaps, a spot in the starting lineup.
Antar Thompson, DT
Missouri will be loaded at defensive tackle in 2018, but that won’t be enough to keep Thompson off the field. While Beckner and Elliott figure to earn the lion’s share of snaps inside, it’s difficult to imagine a player more ready to step in and play on Day 1 than Thompson. Already 23 years old, Thompson has one of the great stories in college football.
After originally signing with Missouri in 2013, Thompson stepped away from football for several years following the birth of his son. However, he eventually found his way back to the gridiron and is one of the Tigers’ five early enrollees. But in addition to being easy to root for, Thompson is also 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, and could be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.
Tyrone Collins, CB
After missing his senior season with a torn left ACL, Tyrone Collins has largely flown under the radar, even for Missouri fans. But now a year removed from the injury, and already enrolled on campus, it is not difficult to envision Collins finding his way into the Tigers’ shallow cornerback rotation. Mizzou will return starters Demarkus Acy and Adam Sparks, plus Christian Holmes, who missed all of 2017 with a right shoulder injury, but the depth chart is wide open beyond that group.