Projecting Mizzou football's first defensive depth chart of 2023

One of the biggest revelations in the 2022 season was the Missouri football team's stellar defense. In the 2023 season, the Tigers return most of the starters on that defense under defensive coordinator Blake Baker.
Here's how we project Missouri's first defensive depth chart will look heading into the start of camp.
Middle Linebacker
Chad Bailey
Dameon Wilson
Will Linebacker
Ty'Ron Hopper
Chuck Hicks/Tristan Newson
The linebackers are easily brains of the defense and it shows with how much experience they bring. Hopper and Bailey started together last season and are back to lead the second level of the defense. Hopper could elevate his NFL Draft status even further from a successful 2022 season.
Behind those two is Wilson, who showed his mettle when he started in place of Bailey against Georgia and didn't miss a step. Hicks and Newson have earned rave reviews from Drinkwitz this offseason, too.
Left Cornerback
Kris Abrams-Draine
Marcus Clarke
Right Cornerback
Ennis Rakestraw
Dreyden Norwood
Daylan Carnell
Tre'Vez Johnson
If the brains of the defense are the linebackers, then the cornerbacks could be considered the heart of the defense. Rakestraw came back from an ACL injury in 2022 and Abrams-Draine moved from the slot to the outside corner position to combine for 26 pass breakups.
Behind those two are Clarke and Norwood, who bring experience and depth, allowing the cornerbacks to have a thorough rotation of skill.
Carnell steps into the STAR role and has a chance to flourish as a playmaker. He led the team with five total turnovers last year with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Strong Safety
Joseph Charleston
Marvin Burks
Free Safety
Jaylon Carlies
Sidney Williams
Charleston and Carlies are two more returnees who started all of last season. Carlies tied for the team lead with three interceptions and Charleston was a dependable tackler who was skilled in coverage. Those two are dependable on the back end.
What could be a boon for the future of MU is Williams, a transfer from Florida State, and Burks, a four-star true freshman from St. Louis. At SEC Media Days, Abrams-Draine alluded to the impression Burks has already made on the defensive backfield.
"Marvin, he a dog," Abrams-Draine said. "We call him starvin' Marvin."
Defensive Line
Right Defensive Tackle
Kristian Williams
Josh Landry/Marquis Gracial
Right Defensive End
Joe Moore
Nyles Gaddy
Left Defensive End
Darius Robinson
Austin Firestone/Johnny Walker
Left Defensive Tackle
Realus George
Jayden Jernigan
The biggest question mark of the defense lies in the front four after the departures of Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat, however, it's less of a conundrum than what it may seem on paper.
Robinson returns as perhaps one of the best NFL prospects MU has next season, but he moves from the interior to the exterior. At the edge position, Robinson will lead the pass rush with Moore, a transfer from Arizona State. In the rotation are Gaddy, a transfer from Jackson State, and Austin Firestone, a Northwestern transfer. The unit has the ability to defend the run, but they'll need to prove they can consistently rush the passer.
One player has earned the notice from Robinson, and that's Johnny Walker. Walker saw an expanded role in the Gasparilla Bowl loss against Wake Forest. Robinson said Walker had been standing out as a player who impressed him. There's a chance Walker could leap Firestone or Gaddy during camp leading up to the season opener.
While the edge rushers are set, the defensive tackle rotation features familiar faces. Williams was effective in the rotation last season and Realus George is set for a larger role. Behind them are Jernigan and Landy, two rotational tackles who also know Baker's system.
A player to watch is Gracial, another player Robinson noted has impressed him so far. Gracial, a former four-star prospect, is in line to create his spot in the rotation which could include Gracial earning a spot as a starter.

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