Posted: 9:00 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19, 2013
By Bill C.
2010: 13 games, 22.5 tackles, 1 PBU
2011: 13 games, 59.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 16 PBU, 1 FF; 2 PR, 10.9 average, 1 TD
2012: 12 games, 66.0 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 INT, 11 PBU, 2 FF, 2 FR, 2 QB hurries
Bill C.: Last year, as a conversation piece, I crafted a list of the players Missouri could least afford to lose to injury. I am going out of my way not to look back and find it, but I'm pretty sure most or all of them got hurt at some point in 2012. For this reason, I'm not going to say that E.J. Gaines is the player Missouri can least afford to lose to injury. I'm just not going to say it. I'm not going to say that he's the anchor of a defense that is pretty athletic and interesting but indeed needs him to be an anchor capable of hanging with No. 1 receivers. I'm not going to say that the thought of Randy Ponder or an untested youngster guarding other teams' No. 1s gives me night terrors. I'm not going to say that Missouri's ceiling drops by at least one full game without Gaines. I'm just not going to say it.
What I will say, however, is that Gaines is really, really good. In a reserve role in 2010, he gave us hints of fabulous instincts and aggressiveness, to the point that after his 22.5-tackle season (one with minimal disruptive stats), we said this in the 2011 Walkthrough:
RPT: I’m not sure how much technical talk I have about E.J. Gaines. All I know is that there were a number of occasions I looked up and thought, "That was a nice play. Who was that?" The answer was often E.J. Gaines. Given the way Mizzou trusted him to step in at any given time down the stretch, I’m operating under the assumption that he has the inside track at one of the corner spots. And given what I saw from him in 2010, I’m totally cool with that.
Bill C.: While Kip Edwards plays somewhat like a prototypical cornerback, E.J. Gaines plays like a scrapper, somebody who’s always trying to prove something. He and Trey Hobson play a more physical brand of cornerback than the others in the stable, and early indications are that, despite youth, Gaines plays it better. Gaines is unafraid of sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong; he’s a fighter and a fantastic complement to Edwards. The only question, of course, is if he has the consistency and maturity to step up and start for a relatively mature defense.
We are frequently wrong, but we were not when it came to Gaines. He's gone from "scrapper" to star, and he's one of the SEC's best cornerbacks.
MizzouRugby: Could be a special year for E.J. Last year his accomplishments were lost in the overall malaise around the team. Hopefully this year they will be too big to miss.
The Beef: I feel like if Gaines was two inches taller, we’d be talking about someone who had a real shot at a Day 1-2 draft status. Instead, I think Gaines is someone who could hear his name called on Day 3 (rounds 4-7). I will be curious to see how often QB’s throw at him, but a couple of INT’s would certainly help a defense which I think will ultimately determine wins and losses more so than the offense.
countrycal: Getting overlooked until the third team on the pre-season SEC teams will probably make E.J. even more hungry for the acclaim he might have received last year if the whole team had performed better. Gotta believe this young man is in for a great year – which means opposing quarterbacks/receivers are going to have to deal with some frustration when throwing his way. If he becomes the lock-down defender I think he is capable of being, then that will limit the opponents strategy and give our other corners to gain experience and develop their skills more quickly.