Mizzou Football Notebook: Getting over the hump, Jeffcoat homecoming
Mizzou (3-4) will travel to the other Columbia in South Carolina in week nine hoping to string together its fourth consecutive win over the Gamecocks in as many seasons. And for the first time in about a month, the Tigers will be heading into a game with momentum as they got a 17-14 win over Vanderbilt in week eight.
What was different about this game from its previous two other wins over Louisiana Tech and Abilene Christian besides the Commodores being a Southeastern Conference opponent is how the Tigers won. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs and Wildcats in lopsided fashion and were 2-1 after facing the latter before losing three straight one-possession losses game. In week eight, Mizzou was finally able to win a one-possession game that came down to Vandy's final possession.
With Missouri up 17-14 and Vandy already on the Tigers' 44-yard line on fourth and one Mizzou defensive tackles, Darius Robinson and Realus George Jr. and linebacker Chad Bailey stuffed the Commodores' running back Ray Davis to force a turnover on downs.
"It's pure want to on that play," Mizzou defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. "We went out there in our base package and actually coach Drink called time out and said 'Do you want to put in that rhino package?' So, I said that's a great idea. That's credit to Robinson for locking out and disengaging and Bailey and George were there to finish it off."
Robinson finished the game with a pair of tackles and was PFF College's 10th-highest-graded defensive player for week eight.
"A fourth down stop to win the game," Robinson said. "It definitely is a dream. I'm just glad we won at the end of the day."
Trajan Jeffcoat motivated to ruin South Carolina's homecoming
For the fourth time this season, Missouri will be involved in a homecoming game. This week, will be South Carolina's homecoming, last week was Mizzou's and the Tigers played against Auburn in week four and against Florida in week six in homecoming for those schools.
It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Tigers' defensive end and Columbia, South Carolina native Trajan Jeffcoat who will be expecting 30-35 friends and family at the game. At the same time for Jeffcoat, not only is this a chance to perform in front of his hometown again and help his team get back to .500, he will get a chance to stick it to South Carolina, which recruited him but didn't offer in 2018.
"I was upset because that was my dream school. I feel like everybody that's born or raised in Columbia, their dream school is South Carolina," Jeffcoat said. "So, I was definitely upset, but I was also blessed that Mizzou believed in me as well and I cherish that. I know I'm in a better place now because it's God's plan, but I'm extra motivated for sure."
Jeffcoat has just 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack on the year, so his numbers aren't yet rivaling those from the prior two seasons. But they don't have to since the defense as a whole is playing better.
In 2020, the defense was allowing 32.3 points and 408 total yards per game good for the 66th-best defense in FBS and in 2021 it was 33.8 points and 434.6 yards per game, 106th in the country. This season, Mizzou has the nation's No. 22 overall defense.
"Just seeing how everyone around me grew," Jeffcoat said. "A lot of guys have stepped up and it's exciting to see when a whole team can have multiple weapons. We never want to let an opposing offense outplay us or another defense outplay us."
DJ Coleman's earning more reps
Add defensive lineman DJ Coleman to the number of many defensive transfers making plays for Missouri. Coleman recorded four tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and a forced fumble against Florida in week six and followed it up with three tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and a fumble in week eight versus Vanderbilt.
"I think he's just gotten really comfortable within the scheme," Baker said. "I think we weren't repping him enough early on in the season and as the season has gone on, he's gotten more and more reps and more reps mean more chances to produce."
Coleman was a two-time FCS All-American at Jacksonville State and recorded 59 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and had a team-high five sacks in 2021, but said he's learned and approved a lot since arriving in Columbia under defensive line coach Kevin Peoples.
"Coach Peoples has taught me a lot with terminology," Coleman said. "With pass rush, I knew a lot, I just didn't know how to talk about the angles and he taught me how. He also helped me a lot with the run because with the six-technique at my other school we did it totally differently. He taught me how to do it the way NFL defensive ends do it."
Baker's praise for Coleman didn't stop with his play on the field, but what he's done off of it. He also said he wouldn't mind having Coleman as a tag team partner in a fight if he needed one.
""I've been so impressed with his growth off the field too," Baker said. "He's so fun to coach and he's probably the toughest guy we've got on our team if you're going to get in a fight in a back alley he's going to be my first-round draft pick. So, he's always had that toughness about him."
Coleman has 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles on the season.
LJ Hewitt announces transfer
Defensive back LJ Hewitt announced on Wednesday his intentions to transfer from Mizzou. Last week, Hewitt was suspended from the team and was not reinstated at the time of his announcement.
Hewitt, a 2022 signee out of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, appeared in one game for the Tigers, but didn't log any stats.
With Hewitt's departure that leaves only six scholarship cornerbacks on the roster in Kris Abrams-Draine, DJ Jackson, Marcus Scott II, Dreyden Norwood, Ennis Rakestraw and Davion Sistrunk, who is also currently serving a suspension.