MIZZOU FOOTBALL 2016 POSITION PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE
The Tigers are deep and very, very talented along their defensive line.
Pro Football Focus has tabbed this year's Missouri defensive line as one of the top units in the SEC, and in the country.
Defensive end Charles Harris is perhaps Missouri's best player. Coming off of a sophomore season in which he was named 2nd-Team All-SEC and Honorable Mention All-American, Harris has already been projected to be a mid-first round pick in next spring's NFL Draft, and this month he's been named Preseason 2nd-Team All-SEC and to a pair of watch lists (Bednarik & Nagurski) for national defensive player of the year. Harris came to Missouri with enough talent. But it's his superlative work ethic that sets him apart from his predecessors at defensive end for Missouri, and that has allowed him to develop into a likely 1st-round pick.
Harris has indicated that one of his goals for this, likely his last season at Mizzou, is the single-season sack record (14.5), set in 2014 by former 1st-rounder Shane Ray.
Pro Football Focus thinks Harris could exceed the standard set by his predecessors.
“We've seen a lot of talented pass rushers for the Missouri Tigers in recent years, but Harris has the potential to be the best of the bunch,” wrote PFF. “With 7 sacks, 14 hits, and 33 hurries, Harris had the ninth-best pass rushing grade among 4-3 defensive ends in college last year at +30.1………………………………………………… Charles Harris earned the 5th-highest overall grade nationally among returning edge defenders, playing very well against the run and even better as a pass-rusher, producing 54 total QB pressures.”
What's really scary for opposing QBs is that even without Harris, Missouri would still be considered to be deep and very talented at defensive end. Not only do the Tigers return their starter opposite Harris, in Freshman All American Walter Brady, Missouri also returns 3 more experienced, starter-quality defensive ends, in Marcell Frazier, Spencer Williams, and Nate Howard.
Regarding Brady, PFF wrote, “Defensive end Walter Brady graded out well against the run and produced eight sacks as a pass-rusher.”
As has often been the case in recent seasons, Missouri is loaded at defensive end.
Pro Football Focus called Missouri’s depth of talent along the defensive line “an embarrassment of riches”.
Frazier, Williams, and Howard are each on track to take on the mantel of the next defensive end at D-Line-Zou.
In addition, barring injury, Missouri's most-talented defensive end, freshman Tre Williams, may be afforded the luxury of a red-shirt year.
Missouri is even more loaded at defensive tackle, with 3 seniors, each of whom are likely to have NFL careers, and at least one or two more future NFL players. With 6 starter-quality defensive tackles, freshman Markell Utsey will almost certainly be afforded a red-shirt season.
Heading into Fall Camp, here's kind of what the Depth Chart might look like along the Missouri defensive line:
56 Walter Brady 6’3” 255 (So)
16 Marcell Frazier 6’5” 265 (J)
87 Jordan Harold 6’2” 245 (J)
52 Eddie Serrano 6’3” 235 (J)
96 A.J. Logan 6’2” 302 (J)
97 Josh Augusta 6’4” 345 (S)
61 Adam Roland 6’3” 315 (So)
49 Markell Utsey 6’4” 290 (F)
51 Ed Cruz 6’2” 250 (J)
95 Rickey Hatley 6’4” 285 (S)
79 Terry Beckner 6’4” 307 (So)
18 Josh Moore 6’5” 280 (So)
90 Harold Brantley 6’3” 270 (S)
89 Tyler Hanneke 6’4” 250 (S)
91 Charles Harris 6’3” 255 (J)
13 Spencer Williams 6’3” 245 (So)
88 Nate Howard 6’5” 235 (So)
93 Tre Williams 6’5” 235 (F)
This week, Charles Harris told everyone not to sleep on Rickey Hatley. This off-season, the senior has clearly elevated his physical abilities, and in all likelihood, Hatley enters Fall Camp as a starter at defensive tackle.
Junior A.J. Logan also really improved himself this off-season, and he too, has positioned himself as a potential starter. In the Spring Game, Logan lined up ahead of returning starter, senior Josh Augusta. Augusta has been a game-changer during his time at Missouri, and he is another potential high-round draft pick next spring. But this spring, Logan outplayed him.
A Freshman All-American last season, sophomore DT Terry Beckner has recovered from December ACL surgery, and he too, will be competing for a starting role. This week, Coach Odom said of Beckner that "he looks really good".
Again from Pro Football Focus, “Defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. ranked 15th in run-defense grade among returning Power-5 DTs.”
Fifth-year senior Harold Brantley, a former starter who has not taken the field since he suffered multiple injuries in an automobile accident last June, is reportedly nearly fully-recovered and has been working out with the rest of his line mates. Coach Odom stated that Brantley's weight is back up to 270 pounds, and that he's progressing well in his rehabilitation. It sounds like Brantley is expected to be a full participant in Fall Camp.
Finally, sophomore DT Josh Moore, who played significantly a year ago, and who has improved himself physically this off-season, is also in the mix for playing time this season.