Report Card: See the overachievers and flunkies of Missouri football

While Missouri’s offensive line and quarterbacks have seen success, much of Missouri’s defense has struggled to live up to expectations.

LSU sophomore running back Derrius Guice, 5, runs in to score one of six touchdowns at the LSU tigers home game facing the Missouri tigers.

With the Missouri football team coming off a much-needed bye week, it is time to take a look at the Tigers’ performance this season. Despite having a 2-3 record, some areas of Missouri’s game have been surprisingly successful. Take a look at Missouri’s report card midway through the 2016 season.

Quarterbacks: B

The quarterback position was a bit of a question mark at the beginning of the season. How many reps would Marvin Zanders see? Was Drew Lock’s position as a starter in jeopardy?

Those questions have been answered after five weeks of football.

Lock’s sophomore campaign has been a massive improvement over his freshman debut. In five games, Lock has thrown 10 more touchdowns and 343 more yards than he did his entire freshman season.

However, the majority of his production has come against subpar opponents Eastern Michigan and Delaware State. In those two games, Lock threw for 10 touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Against Power Five schools, Lock has been subpar. He has only thrown four touchdowns in three games while also throwing four interceptions.

Running Backs: D

The Missouri run game has been nonexistent this season.

Fans have caught glimpses of Damarea Crockett’s potential, as the freshman is averaging more than 6 yards per carry. However, Crockett has struggled with holding onto the football and has fumbled twice.

Ish Witter is Missouri’s go-to guy when avoiding turnovers is paramount. He just hasn’t been the go-to guy when the Tigers need to gain yards, averaging a measly 3.8 yards per carry.

Subpar play-calling in the running game has led to Missouri’s struggles. The Tigers rarely attempt to spread opposing defenses out, instead opting to jam the ball into the middle of the defensive line.

Wide Receivers: B

Nobody knew quite what to expect at the start of the season when it came to the Missouri wide receiver corps.

Last season, Missouri’s top receiver, J’Mon Moore, only recorded 29 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Missouri’s top scoring receiver in 2015, Nate Brown, suffered a high ankle sprain in fall camp, putting his season in doubt.

After five games, the Tiger receivers appear to be a different animal than the tamed beast they were last season.

The receiving corps, led by Moore, a speedy group of slot receivers and a three-headed monster at the tight end position, has dominated opposing defenses. The reason the group is receiving a B is the fact that the receivers have suffered many drops and have struggled holding onto the football after the catch.

Offensive Line: A-

After last season’s atrocious play, the Missouri offensive line came into 2016 with a chip on its shoulder.

Despite having only three combined starts between them prior to this season, the Missouri offensive linemen look like one of the nation’s most seasoned blocking groups, only surrendering three sacks in five games.

The only area the Tiger offensive linemen have struggled in is run blocking. With the Missouri offense being an air raid attack, however, this is not a huge concern.

Defensive Line: D-

Missouri football prides itself in having consistently strong defensive lines. This year was supposed to be no different.

With the exception of Walter Brady, the Missouri defensive line returned all its 2015 playmakers for the 2016 season. Among those playmakers was Charles Harris, who was supposed to be one of the nation’s top defensive ends.

Through five games, the Missouri defensive line looks a shell of its former self. The Tigers only have nine sacks and are allowing an average of 189 yards on the ground per game. Last year, the defensive line only permitted 133 rushing yards per game.

Pressure is on defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross to turn the defensive line’s play around, especially after a 418-yard, six-touchdown thrashing at the hands of LSU.

Linebackers: C

With the defensive line’s struggles, the Missouri linebackers have been under constant pressure to clean up the mess.

Michael Scherer has been solid when countering opposing running backs and has racked up 42 tackles. However, his zone is often targeted when opponents need to complete a pass.

Meanwhile, Donavin Newsom, who was praised in fall camp for his ability to cover slot receivers, is no longer a non-factor when countering opposing passing attacks. He is now being used to pass rush and has one sack on the year.

Defensive Backs: B-

Through five games, Aarion Penton has emerged as a lockdown corner. He has two interceptions to go along with six pass breakups.

However, the rest of Missouri’s pass defense has been streaky throughout the season.

While Thomas Wilson is second on the team in tackles, he has struggled to break up passes and is without an interception. Anthony Sherrils, who started every game last season, is in a position battle with Cam Hilton after coaches questioned Sherrils’ play quality in practice.

Penton’s counterpart, John Gibson, has been average this season. The redshirt senior has one interception and four pass breakups.

Special Teams: B

Missouri’s kicking game sounded alarms early in the season, when the Tigers only hit one of their first three field goals and missed two extra points in the game against Eastern Michigan.

Since then, Tucker McCann has settled in. The freshman has not missed a field goal since his nightmare start at West Virginia and has converted 19 of his 21 extra point attempts.

Corey Fatony’s success in the punting game has continued over from his freshman season. The sophomore has hit 13 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line and is averaging almost 44 yards per punt.

Missouri’s return game has been night and day from last season. With the help of Johnathon Johnson and Chris Black, the Tigers have returned one punt for a touchdown and are averaging almost 20 yards per kickoff return.

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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