A year ago, improved play along the defensive line was a key ingredient in the development of Missouri's best defense of the Gary Pinkel era. Even with the early departure to the NFL of First-Team All-Big 12 DE Aldon Smith, the Tigers appear to be stronger up front than they were a year ago. Some have tabbed Missouri's defensive line as the best in the conference, heading into the 2011 season. At the Big 12 Media Days, Coach Pinkel suggested that this year, Missouri's defensive line is the best it's been during his time at Missouri.
3 Jacquies Smith 6'4" 255 (S)
52 Michael Sam 6'3" 255 (So)
89 Matt Hoch 6'5" 260 (RSF)
85 Derrion Thomas 6'4" 225 (RSF)
93 Terrell Resonno 6'5" 295 (S)
91 Jimmy Burge 6'2" 290 (J)
99 George White 6'4" 285 (J)
58 Brendan Donaldson 6'2" 285 (S)
95 Sheldon Richardson 6'4" 290 (J)
90 Dominique Hamilton 6'5" 305 (S)
94 Marvin Foster 6'2" 285 (So)
96 Lucas Vincent 6'3" 295 (RSF)
98 Gerrand Johnson 6'2" 275 (F)
57 Brad Madison 6'4" 265 (J)
97 Kony Ealy 6'5" 257 (RSF)
55 Brayden Burnett 6'3" 245 (So)
56 Shane Ray 6'4" 225 (F)
One of the reasons for the optimism is the return of a pair of 2010 Second-Team All-Big 12 DEs, each of whom have been named to the Pre-Season Watch list for the Lombardi Award, in senior Jacquies Smith 6'4" 255, and junior Brad Madison 6'4" 265. Madison has also been named Preseason All-Big 12, and to the Pre-Season Watch List for the Nagurski Award. In 2010, Smith started every game for Missouri, and registered 35 tackles, including 10 TFLs, and 5.5 QB sacks. He was involved in 4 turnovers; a pair of forced fumbles, and a pair of fumble recoveries, including one that he returned for a TD. A part-time starter in 2010, Madison recorded 32 tackles, including team-leading 11 TFLs, and 7.5 QB sacks.
A pair of talented fifth-year seniors anchor the middle of Missouri's defensive front, in returning starters, DT Terrell Resonno 6'5" 295, who was All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2010, and DT Dominique Hamilton 6'5" 305, who missed the second half of the 2010 season after suffering a fractured ankle against Oklahoma. In 2010, Resonno started all 13 games for Missouri, and recorded 35 tackles, including 4 TFLs, and 2 QB sacks. Last year, Hamilton made seven starts for Missouri before his season-ending injury, and registered 20 tackles in half of a season, after starting 12 games in 2009.
The starting quartet of Madison, Smith, Resonno, and Hamilton provide the Tigers with a formidable fearsome foursome.
Another reason to be optimistic about Missouri's improved defensive line play, is the development of an emerging star at defensive end, in RSF Kony Ealy 6'5" 257, who because he possesses similar physical attributes and athleticism, has already drawn comparisons to Aldon Smith. Ealy enters fall camp as a second-team DE, behind Madison, but look for him to be on the field a lot.
Another talented, and experienced, DE is sophomore Michael Sam 6'3" 255, who made 23 tackles last year, including 7 TFLs. Sam also forced a fumble, and made an interception. He's another young, starter-quality player who will see plenty of action for the Tigers.
Entering fall camp, the Tigers' fifth DE is sophomore Brayden Burnett 6'3" 245, who saw considerable action a year ago on special teams, and also played on defense. He recorded 5 tackles in all. Burnett's a tough, hard-nosed player with a serious motor.
RSF DE Matt Hoch 6'5" 260 was impressive in the spring, after moving over from the other side of the ball. He's another player who adds to the competition at an already deep position.
Completing the depth chart at DE for the Tigers are a pair of newcomers, in freshman DE Shane Ray 6'4" 225, and RSF DE Derrion Thomas 6'4" 225. Thomas is a walk-on. Both are talented players, each with considerable promise.
There's quite a competition brewing at the DT position, behind the senior starters. Junior DT Jimmy Burge 6'2" 290 begins camp listed on the second team. Burge is an experienced player who started 6 games last year, after Hamilton went down, and registered 16 tackles, in 2010.
A pair of talented young players will challenge for spots on the two-deep, including sophomore DT Marvin Foster 6'2" 285, who in 2010 saw his limited playing time increase near season's end, and RSF DT Lucas Vincent 6'3" 295, who impressed during the spring. Expect to see one, or both, of Foster and Vincent on the field this year. These are two exciting young players who have just continued to improve, and who have the ability to make a significant contribution this year, by raising the level of play of Missouri's back-up DTs.
Freshman DT Gerrand Johnson 6'2" 275 is another young talent who is auditioning for a chance to climb the depth chart. Barring injuries to Missouri's top players at DT, look for Johnson to be allowed a year in the weight room, and on the practice field, as he continues to develop. By next spring, Johnson should be ready to move up.
A pair of veterans add depth to the DT position, in junior George White 6'4" 285, and senior Brendan Donaldson 6'2" 285. Both have playing experience.
Missouri's defensive line appears to be a strength of the team, with few question marks, heading into fall camp. Undoubtedly the biggest question mark at this position heading into fall camp, is the anticipated arrival of junior-college transfer Sheldon Richardson 6'4" 290. The insertion of Richardson into the mix for playing time at DT would very likely increase the competitive depth at this key position.
As we've previously reported, the talented lineman is expected to make it in for the beginning of camp, or at least by the first day of school. Coach Pinkel replied to a question regarding Richardson's pending arrival at the Big 12 Media Days, saying that he expected Richardson to report for the beginning of fall camp. If/when Richardson suits up for Missouri, it will be interesting to see how much of an impact he'll be able to have. He could be a very nice piece of the puzzle to add to what is already a position of relative strength for the Tigers.
Having a strong defensive front bodes well for the Tigers this season.
Pre-Season Analysis: It isn't every team that can lose a top ten 1st round NFL draft pick off of their defensive line and come into camp the following year with the potential to be even better. However, the Tigers bring back their most productive linemen along with some talented newcomers who could figure into mix.
The added depth expected this year will also bode well for the Tigers in the middle of the line.