Coming off a win over the former top-ranked team in the nation, the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies prepare for the Missouri Tigers. Before the game kicks off, these are the players you need to know about.
Ainias Smith - Texas A&M
The junior wide receiver had a slow stretch of play between Weeks 2 and 5, but he showed up in a big way for A&M against former No. 1 Alabama in Week 6. Smith caught six passes for 85 yards and had two touchdowns in the Aggies’ upset win. Smith has largely been phased out of the running game this season compared to previous years, but he still causes matchup problems for defenses in the passing game with his burst and quickness. Smith and his developing rapport with redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada could bring a new dimension to the A&M offense.
Tyler Badie - Missouri
The second leading rusher in the SEC is Missouri’s senior running back Badie. Badie has run for 200 or more yards in two games this season, bringing speed to the Tigers’ backfield in both the running and passing game. He had a career performance in Week 6 against the North Texas Mean Green, in which he ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers may turn to Badie against an exploitable A&M run defense.
“[Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz] does a great job. His running schemes, his counters, his stretches,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said, “they’re very dynamic on offense.”
DeMarvin Leal - Texas A&M
Junior defensive lineman Leal is a projected first round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he showed why in Week 6. Against a stout Alabama offensive line anchored by junior tackle Evan Neal, Leal still found his way into the backfield plenty, leading the SEC in pressures on the week. Missouri’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak has only been sacked five times this season, but could see more pressure than he’s used to versus the Aggies this weekend.
Connor Bazelak - Missouri
Bazelak has shown plenty of promise during his sophomore campaign for the Tigers. He is fourth in the SEC in passing yards and is commanding the fifth-best offense in the SEC in terms of yards per game. While the former 4-star recruit has at least 250 passing yards in all but one game this season, he is set to face an A&M defense that allows less than 17 points per game and is good at applying pressure at the line of scrimmage. It will be a test for the young quarterback with limited mobility.
Antonio Johnson - Texas A&M
The junior defensive back from East St. Louis is an emerging star on the A&M defense. Johnson is instinctive and has a knack for always being near the football, ranking in the top-10 in the SEC in both tackles and pass deflections. While he has yet to force a turnover, he has been an integral part to the A&M defense under defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
“[We have to] use the momentum of the win [against Alabama] to go into the next week,” Johnson said. “But just know that we have to beat Mizzou. It’s kind of personal to me because it’s so close to home.”
Kris Abrams-Draine - Missouri
A sophomore defensive back, Abrams-Draine has been a ball-hawk for the Tigers. A wide receiver recruit out of Spanish Fort High School in Alabama, his skills have translated well as he transitioned to defense, ranking in the top-10 in the SEC in both pass deflections and interceptions. In his Week 6 performance against North Texas, Abrams-Draine forced two turnovers and added four total tackles in a winning effort.
“He’s got really good hands, ball skills, made the transition well, practices hard,” Drinkwitz said. “He worked really hard this summer to put himself in a position to be a good player, and he has done that and capitalized.”