Missouri’s defensive line has been able to apply pressure on opposing QBs this season, which has been a major factor in Missouri’s 11 interceptions this season. And in recent games, the Tigers have been getting to the QB with frequency. Missouri’s average of 3.0 sacks/game is tops in the SEC, and ranks 15th nationally.
“All season, (our defensive line) has been doing a very good job of pressuring the quarterback,” explained Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel. “In the last two weeks, that pressure is now translating into sacks. But I’ve seen great pressure from the (defensive) line all season.”
“They have a really great defensive front,” began Carta-Samuels, speaking of Missouri. “I have so much respect for their front, because a lot of their success doesn’t come from moves right off the line. They just have guys like the guys on our D-line that just want it and want it really badly. They dropped eight into coverage and it took a lot of time to go through progressions, and those three just worked as hard as they could. Part of them dropping eight into coverage was allowing more time for their defensive line to work, and that really helped them be successful.”
In his post-game statements, Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin cited Missouri’s ability to apply pressure with just their front four while also being able to stop the run as key to Missouri’s early-game defensive success.
Nearly all of Missouri’s sacks have come from the defensive line, and four times this season, a Missouri defensive lineman has been recognized as Defensive Lineman of the Week by the SEC.
A key element of Missouri’s success up front is their depth, and their ability to rotate a number of quality defensive linemen Coach Steckel called Missouri’s defensive line depth and ability to rotate players in and out of the lineup “fantastic”.
At Vanderbilt, junior DE Kony Ealy, garnered his first two sacks of the season, to go along with 4 pass-break-ups, 2 QB hurries, and an interception.
Ealy is one of the Missouri defensive linemen to have received the weekly honor. Earlier this week, he spoke with ShowMeMizzou.com.
“I think those awards, you know, they are based on what other people think,” said Ealy. “But other than that, they kind of show that, “Hey, you know, Missouri Football, they got some heck-of-a-players over there, and they mean business this year”. And, that’s kind of the message that we send out to everybody, you know, not just the SEC……………………………………………. To be honest with you, we don’t care as much about (recognition or rankings) as much as winning. We want to win! And, I think when we win, you know, and the fact that we take care of winning, everything else will take care of itself. We’re not worried about that.”
Ealy talked about the importance of Missouri’s defensive line depth.
“It helps a lot,” explained Ealy. “You know, you don’t want to be out there sixty plays, and then be dead-dog tired. Not necessarily sixty plays, but like, you don’t want to be out there like fifteen plays in a row, and then get gassed out and it be the play that you take a break on and they throw a touchdown because you didn’t rush the passer, something like that. So, it’s good to have that kind of a rotation, especially knowing that you’ve got guys that you can count on to get the job done.”
“It’s good to have fresh bodies to kind of get in there and take up a few plays, and then we can get back out there and get started,” continued Ealy. “(Shane Ray and Markus Golden) are two young guys, man, full of energy and knowing what they’re doing. That’s real key. You know, that’s really important! Many teams don’t have that.”
Ealy talked about the way that Missouri’s defensive tackles are getting a great push up the middle and preventing the opposing QB from stepping up into the pocket. He also pointed out that the interior guys are taking up double-teams, which frees up the guys on the outside, as well as the linebackers. He called it "a sign of respect" when you can draw the double-team, as he often does when he moves inside on passing downs. He also said that it's "a lot", meaning a lot of effort expended for the man being double-teamed.
Through five games this season, the Missouri defense has done pretty well in the red zone, giving up a touchdown on just 9-of-16 (56%) opposition red-zone incursions. That percentage ranks 6th in the 14-team SEC. And, only Florida and Alabama have allowed fewer than the 9 TDs that Missouri has surrendered in the red zone this season.
Earlier this week, Coach Steckel pointed out that he changes the way that he calls plays in the red-zone.
And, Ealy talked about the players’ mental approach to red zone defense. "We are just going out there, believing in ourselves and taking a stand,” explained Ealy. “We believe that we have one of the best red-zone defenses in the country. We truly believe that. And, we are going to show you every time.”