Hopper, Jernigan hope to make instant impact on Mizzou D-Line

Recently two years ago, both Tyrone Hooper And the Jayden Jernigan He couldn’t believe they’d be here – and not just in Missouri. Both transfers that Tiger’s crew added to the defensive line during the holiday period have given reason to believe they will not be playing college football in 2022, albeit for different reasons.

Hopper simply never imagined that he would still qualify. The defensive end committed to North Carolina in 2015, when Gary Pinkel He was still the head coach of Missouri. During his six seasons at Chapel Hill, he played against Eli Drinkewitz When Drenkowitz was the offensive coordinator at NC State and head coach at Appalachian State.

Now, with a pair of medical and NCAA red jerseys not counting 2020 against any player’s eligibility, Hopper plays his senior and super senior year with Drenkwitz in Missouri.

“One of my old coaches used to say adversity would come, it’s just the way to deal with it,” Hooper told reporters on Monday, when one of my old coaches was made available to the media. “And I feel like I’ve overcome a lot and coped with it really well. So just having that mentality, just keeping working and moving on with things, made me want to play that extra year of football.”

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Meanwhile, Jernigan has spent the entire 2020 season sidelined with myocarditis, a side effect after contracting COVID-19. Unable to play, train, or even rehearse with his Oklahoma State teammates due to a heart condition, he left Stillwater and spent a semester with his family. He pondered the idea that his football career might have come to an end.

“I took a step out of football,” he said. “When they diagnosed me with it, I just left and stayed with my family. I didn’t stay at Stillwater that season. I’d be home, but that’s it. Just for me mentally.”

“Really, at some point I didn’t think I was going to play football anymore. So I really started to focus more on the academics, and I got more lessons. And then when I saw that it was getting better, I switched back to football.”

Now, both players have met in Missouri, and they both feel stronger to weather adversity earlier in their college careers. The two new arrivals are part of a transfer wave that Drenkewitz has introduced in an effort to speed up the rebuilding process in Missouri – particularly on the defensive line. With three transfers already added to the defensive front since the end of last season, Tiger players believe Al Wahda can build on their improvement since the end of last year and shape a solid campaign in 2021.

“From this year to last I think we’ve had a lot of players who are all on the same page,” defensive tackle Realos George He said. “I think everyone is ready to work on things we’ve been working on. We’ve had really good winter training and now we’re trying to go to the spring ball and see what we can work on. We’re all excited about how we finished last year, so we’re just trying to improve on that.” “.

Former Oklahoma State defensive tackle Jayden Jernigan said he moved to Missouri with the goal of playing a bigger role.

Former Oklahoma State defensive tackle Jayden Jernigan said he moved to Missouri with the goal of playing a bigger role. (USA Today sports photos)

Prior to last season, both Drinkwitz and defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes Expect the Missouri line of defense to be the team’s strength. This didn’t exactly pay off. The Seven Tigers’ front routinely sustained wounds on the ground during the first two-thirds of the season. Defense spent several weeks ranked last in FBS against the race. This led to the expulsion of a defensive line coach Jethro Franklin Only five games per season.

But over the past few weeks, the defensive front has found a foothold. defensive ends Isaiah McGuire And the Trajan Jevkot Combined to score 10.5 interventions for a loss in the team’s last four games. in defensive intervention, Darius Robinson I got a healthy and real freshman Mekhi Wingo He saw his playing time constantly expanding. Missouri has kept three of its final four opponents less than four yards per carry after holding only one of its first nine under this mark.

Wingo then entered the transfer gate and left the Wilks for the Carolina Panthers and some re-emerged around the defense, particularly up front. But the actual players who will be dealing with the defensive line have expressed optimism about unity this season, due in large part to the arrival of the team’s three transfers (Hupper and Jernigan and the previous Auburn defense end. Ian Matthews) In addition to preparing a new training.

“All three, they are great guys and I had a really good time getting stronger with them, working out with them and other things,” George said of the newcomers. “But I’m willing to see what they can do on the pitch. I mean, I’ve seen them on tape and stuff before they go in, and we’ll watch each other’s tape in the D line room and just tell each other what we can improve. So I’m excited to see what we can do together” .

Jernigan is expected to run the inside of the defensive line, while Hopper has described himself as a “real defensive end”. Jernigan has proven that he can produce at a high level. At Oklahoma State last season, he scored 22 tackles, including two for a loss, for a defense that finished fourth nationally against the race last season. However, he never made it to the starting line-up, and with both junior players in position for a comeback in 2021, he wanted to find a position that would allow him to show his ability in an expanded role.

“It was just a chance to get into the NFL,” Jernigan said. “…I was back up, and the d-intervention that was in front of me was back in its sixth year. And for me, I just wanted the opportunity to move on and start somewhere. Because I felt I deserved it.”

At 6 feet and 265 pounds, Jernigan doesn’t have a typical under-line size. (He said he’d like to be around 280 to 285 by the start of the season.) But he believes it makes up for its lack of size by being fast and technically sound. He said his skill set would fit in well with the elder Robinson.

“I’m a big tech guy,” he said. “For me, if my technique wasn’t one hundred percent, I would get mad at myself. So I just make sure I have technique and I have the speed. Nobody will hit me off the ball.”

Hopper, too, is looking to use his season in Missouri to prove himself. Hopper suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in North Carolina State’s second game last year, the second time he had a season prematurely due to injury. He chose to use his seventh season of eligibility to test in the NFL.

“I know what I can do as an athlete,” he said. “So that was the most important thing, just getting that year to come here and try to prove myself to get to the next level.”

Huber said he prides himself on its versatility. For the past three years, he’s mostly played outside the linebacker in North Carolina State’s 3-4 defensive line, so he said he’s comfortable with speeding passers, putting on the edge or getting into coverage.

“As a defensive end, we’ll have plays where we can bring it down,” Hooper said. “I can do it, I can get off the edge and I can rush. So I bring all of this stuff to the table. I just know I’m versatile and I can get everything done.”

Former North Carolina Defensive End Tyrone Hooper will play his seventh and final season in college football in Missouri.

Former North Carolina Defensive End Tyrone Hooper will play his seventh and final season in college football in Missouri. (THI)

It is clear that both Hopper and Jernigan came to Missouri with a plan to play an important role. But they both also expressed the understanding that nothing would be handed to them, saying they would have to work their way up the depth chart. Jernigan noted that he’s already got a tape of defensive tackles in practice and has been working on them alone, as well as group drills, so he won’t be late once the spring drills start on Friday.

“I just came in with a mill mentality,” Huber said. “It’s like if you are graduating from high school, you should work your way up. So I just came with this mentality. I will just work my way up and prove that I deserve a place in this field.”

Not only are the two new players with a vibrant defensive line, but a new addition to the coaching staff as well. Promoted by Drinkwitz Al Davis, who took over as Franklin last season, to a full-time position. But he also appointed a second coach for the defense line in Kevin peoples. Davis will manage defensive interventions, while people will direct the ends. Players say they prefer the coach system because it will allow each one more individual instruction.

“It’s another set of eyes with a lot of experience in our room, which gives us more knowledge to be able to learn more, have more resources, be able to be there for us,” Robinson said. “So now everyone will be able to spend more time with their coach. So this will be beneficial for us.”

While there is reason to be optimistic about the outlook for next season, a few Missouri linemen have also expressed some humility, saying that last year’s slow start showed they needed to prepare better from the start. That process will begin on Friday, when the team takes the field for its first practice of the spring.

Friday will also mark the official start of Hopper and Jernigan’s play-test. Both players expressed confidence that they could make their way into the required roles, noting the ordeal they had to overcome just to make it to Missouri State. But Robinson made it clear that nothing would be given.

“There’s a lot of open space,” Robinson said. “So whoever wants to compete and work hard will get the positions, and that’s really it. Everyone knows the opportunity is here, so let’s see who works.”