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2019 Tennessee Football Opponent Preview: Missouri Tigers

Can the Vols avoid a three-game losing streak to the Tigers?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Tigers

Head Coach: Barry Odom (8-5, 19-19 overall)

Conference: SEC

2018 Record: 8-5

Coaching: Barry Odom took over the head coaching gig at the end of the 2015 season after then-head coach Gary Pinkel selected him as his replacement.

Odom’s first two years produced an 11-14 record, but his team came on strong toward the end of 2017. It was enough to keep him around for the 2018 season and that decision paid off quite nicely.

The Tigers finished 8-5, were ranked No. 24 in the final AP poll, and went bowling for the second straight year.

A familiar name in Derek Dooley runs the offense and Vols fans undoubtedly know him all too well. But Dooley’s offense was one of the best in 2018. With Drew Lock at quarterback, Missouri’s offense finished 13th nationally (third in the SEC) in total yards and 18th nationally (third in the SEC) in scoring (36.6 ppg).

Ryan Walters will run the defensive side of things for the second straight year while also coaching safeties. The defense was much better in 2018, rising from 82nd overall in 2017 to 62nd overall in 2018.

Andy Hill, Missouri’s longest-tenured coach, is both an associate head coach and special teams coordinator. He became the Tigers’ first-ever special teams coordinator in 2018 and his unit performed fairly well, blocking three kicks and finishing as a top-10 placekicking unit.

Offense: It will be interesting to see what life is like after Drew Lock.

Fortunately, the Tigers have a capable transfer in Kelly Bryant. The former Clemson Tiger was listed as the starter on the team’s depth chart for the spring game and played well. The backup position isn’t as clear, however, with at least three guys likely competing for the No. 2 spot.

Larry Rountree III is back for his junior season after leading the team with over 1,200 yards on the ground last year. Tyler Badie, who played third fiddle in 2018, will likely back him up with the trio of Simi Bakare, Dawson Downing, and Jerney Jones all splitting time behind him.

Missouri lost its leading receiver from 2018, but the next three return and should pick right up where the offense left off. Johnathon Johnson, Jalen Knox, and Kam Scott combined for 94 receptions, 1,370 yards, and 10 touchdowns last year. As a team, the Tigers’ receivers finished with 281 receptions for 2,262 yards, and 28 touchdowns.

The tight end position is in good hands with the return of Alex Okwuegbunam. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound junior finished last year as the team's third receiver and will likely become a favorite target of Kelly’s as the season goes on.

Trystan Colon-Castillo is one of the best centers in the nation and returns for his junior year to anchor the offensive line. Yasir Durant and Tre’Vour Wallace-Sims are back and will look to continue their push from a season ago. The left guard and right tackle spot will likely be manned by Larry Borom and Hyrin White, who have playing experience, so the offensive line should be in good hands.

4-star recruit Jack Buford could find himself in the mix for the left guard spot, as well.

Defense: The defensive line has a chance to be really special in 2019, especially when considering the amount of depth and experience at the position.

The Tigers will have to replace mammoth tackle Terry Beckner Jr, but Jordan Elliot has shown plenty of promise and got better as the 2018 season wore on. Chris Turner is a very solid end and if Akial Byers can take the next step, then this defensive line should be a very good unit.

Cale Garrett will lead the linebacker corps and is one of the better middle linebackers in the SEC. Nick Bolton and Gerald Nathan, Jr started at the WILL/SAM positions during the spring game and will likely find themselves starting in 2019. The depth at linebacker is a bit concerning, considering that most of the players are underclassmen.

But the secondary is laden with experience, as all four starters are upperclassmen. Cornerback Demarkus Acy led the Tigers with three interceptions last year and junior cornerback Christian Holmes - will start opposite of Acy - started the final eight games of 2018 and led the team with 12 pass break-ups.

Ronnell Perkins was listed as a starter at safety, which was interesting because he moved into more of a safety/outside linebacker hybrid role as 2018 progressed. Tyree Gillespie is arguably the best player at the position and should make a nice combination alongside Perkins. Joshuah Bledsoe started at the other safety spot during the spring game, so be sure to keep an eye on him as well.