As the Missouri Tigers head into Spring Football, there are not a lot of questions along the defensive line, but there are some very important ones.
Missouri appears to be pretty well set at defensive end, but they’re going to need some of their interior defensive linemen to step up to fill the void left by the departure to the NFL of DT Sheldon Richardson.
I’ll first take a look at defensive end, where junior Kony Ealy and senior Michael Sam each return with considerable starting experience. Not only does Missouri return a pair of quality, experienced starters, but there’s also talented and experienced players behind them, in the persons of sophomore Shane Ray, and junior Markus Golden. Both Golden and Ray really came on last season and they will be able to provide not only quality depth, but also quality competition for Ealy and Sam. That’s a very capable quartet with which to begin the spring.
And, that’s not all. At the third level, Missouri returns a very experienced fifth-year senior in Brayden Burnett, and a talented RSF in Rickey Hatley. I don’t expect to see much movement within the depth chart at defensive end this spring. Hopefully, Golden and Ray will challenge the starters. Maybe the very capable Golden will close the gap between he and Sam, which would simply make the unit stronger, and would set up a more serious competition in August, and into the season.
On the inside, Missouri returns junior Matt Hoch, who was the starter all of last season at one defensive tackle spot. There will be a competition throughout the spring to determine the starter at the other spot. This spring, that will be primarily a four-man competition.
Entering the spring, I’ve listed junior Lucas Vincent as the tentative starter at the other DT spot, opposite Hoch. Senior Marvin Foster also deserves consideration for that early pole position. But my expectation is that it won’t be very far into spring practice before RSF Harold Brantley takes over that starting spot next to Hoch. From all reports, the two veterans are primed and ready to mount their own challenges for that starting spot, so this may prove to be a very interesting competition throughout the spring.
The fourth man in the competition is a bit of a dark horse, but don’t count him out. RSF Evan Winston will be heard from this spring, and he could very well move up onto the second string, or even win the starting job, before the end of the spring.
This is a pretty wide-open competition, and that will make for an interesting spring. Plus, there’s the chance to monitor the development of a couple of talented, young players, as well as the continued development of a trio of veterans.
DE 47 Kony Ealy 6'5" 275 (J)
56 Shane Ray 6'3" 245 (So) 95 Rickey Hatley 6’4” 260 (RSF)
98 Clayton Echard 6’5” 260 (So)
DT 89 Matt Hoch 6'5" 295 (J)
94 Marvin Foster 6'1" 300 (S)
50 Evan Winston 6'3" 300 (RSF)
DT 96 Lucas Vincent 6'2" 305 (J)
90 Harold Brantley 6’2” 300 (RSF)
99 David Butler 6’4” 280 (J)
51 Steven Mack 6’0” 245 (J)
52 Michael Sam 6'3" 255 (S)
33 Markus Golden 6’3” 262 (J)
55 Brayden Burnett 6'2" 245 (S)
64 Keric Lickerman 6'3" 235 (So)