When the Missouri Tigers revealed their first depth chart of the season on Monday, it included eight true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen.
It’s possible a few more freshmen could make their college debuts on Saturday when the Tigers open the season at West Virginia.
“I think that going into Week 1 I think it would be fairly safe either on special teams or offensively or defensively that it will be pretty close to that number,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said when asked about how many true freshmen will likely see action. “I’m excited about our football staff on the way that this class came together recruiting. We were together for really 10 days of the recruiting cycle and were able to hold on to some and then put together a pretty good class.”
Odom, who will also make his debut as a Division I head coach on Saturday, was still assembling his coaching staff in January while trying to piece together his first recruiting class.
That class looks like has produced some quality players, even though some of those players are expected to redshirt this fall.
“Some positions, just because of depth, there may be some kids that would help us in other years this year that maybe aren’t because of our depth in certain spots and then there’s some that because of depth they are going to help us,” Odom said. “But you look at what’s best. You have to make sure that the kid is not only physically ready but mentally prepared to be able to go handle everything that it takes throughout the week to prepare for a game. I like the class. Just because a guy maybe is going to redshirt, I still feel really strongly about where those guys are. We’ve had a lot of really good players around here that have redshirted and their fifth year they’ve been pretty darn good.”
It’s obvious the Tigers feel good enough about eight of their newcomers if they have earned their spots on the depth chart and are in position to play right away.
“We get into this part of the early part of the season after as many practices and walk-thrus that we’ve I kind of take the age away from it and how is he performing day-in and day-out?” Odom said. “If he’s a fifth-year senior, awesome. If he’s a freshman, if he can help us win, he’s going to be on the field.”
The eight true freshmen on the two-deep depth chart going into the season opener are: left guard Trystan Castillo, right tackle Tre'Vour Simms, wide receiver Dimetrios Mason, middle linebacker Cale Garrett, cornerbacks Christian Holmes and DeMarkus Acy, placekicker Tucker McCann and kick returner Damarea Crockett, who will also figure into the mix at running back.
Johnson and Mason are listed as potential starters with the “or” designation at wide receiver.
Both were impressive throughout camp — Mason scored two touchdowns in the team’s first scrimmage — and could emerge as playmakers on the perimeter for a team that lacked difference makers at the skilled positions a year ago. Johnson is also listed as one of the Tigers’ punt returners.
“If you look at all 105 guys we had in camp and I like them all but I’m maybe most excited about Johnathon Johnson,” Odom said. “He’s grown up. His maturity is at a different level than where it was last year and even in spring ball and he’s embraced the opportunity to go compete every day.
“He’s become a guy you count on to be a playmaker. He’s done it. He’s not played on Saturdays yet — there’s a lot of those guys that haven’t yet — but I trust him. He knows our offense and he’s willing to go in there and block and make a tough catch and he’s got some skills when he has the ball in his hands as well.”
Another interesting player to watch will be Acy, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Texas who was signed by the Tigers as a safety and was moved to cornerback at some point during fall camp He and classmate Holmes are listed as the backups behind senior starter Aarion Penton.
“If you’re a defensive back, you have a lot of value if you can play really all five spots — both corners, both high safeties and then our nickel spot,” Odom said when asked about Acy. “Then you group those guys together and you rank them. Who is (No.) 1? Who is 2?
“There’s very few times a safety can play go corner on every snap. Usually it’s a corner going to safety. The skill set is a little bit different over there when you’re by yourself as a corner. But DeMarkus has got the ability to really play all five positions. That’s pretty good for a freshman.”
The Tigers will have several players making their college debuts on Saturday, but the freshmen will be worth watching to see what they can contribute early but also to get a glimpse at the future of the program.
Want more BlackAndGoldIllustrated.com coverage? Become a member today to get insider information, members-only forums, exclusive videos, team shop offers and ticket discounts. Click HERE to learn more and get a 7-day free trial.