Earlier this week, junior DE Shane Ray was honored by the conference as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, his third weekly conference award this season. At Florida, Ray enjoyed his fourth two-sack game of the season, including a sack-strip that led to a 21-yard scoop and score TD return by fellow DE Markus Golden. Ray finished at Florida with 6 total tackles, and he also registered a QB pressure.
Golden finished the Florida game with 1 tackle and 1 pass break-up, in addition to the fumble recovery for a touchdown.
But the Tigers two outstanding defensive ends weren’t the only ones who had a huge impact at Florida, and they’re certainly not the whole story this season when it comes to Missouri’s defensive line play.
At Florida, sophomore DT Harold Brantley matched Ray’s 6 total tackles, and he also had a sack and a QB hurry. Senior DT Lucas Vincent had a very productive game, with 5 total tackles, including 1 tackle-for-loss, and he also came up with a fumble recovery. Senior DT Matt Hoch and red-shirt freshman DE Marcus Loud were each credited with 3 total tackles and half a sack at Florida. Hoch was also credited with a pass break-up, as he batted one down at the line of scrimmage. And, red-shirt freshman Charles Harris had 1 tackle at Florida, and he also batted down a pass in the backfield.
After such a dominant performance at Florida, Missouri’s defensive line is receiving well-earned credit, headlined of course, by the well-placed attention directed toward Ray and Golden. At this juncture in the season, Ray’s 42 total tackles ranks fourth on the 5-2 Tigers. And his 14 TFLs and 10 sacks rank first in the SEC. Another two-sack game, and Ray will have become the single-season sack record holder at Mizzou. In addition, Ray has been credited with 3 QB hurries this season, 2 forced fumbles, and a blocked kick.
On the season, Golden ranks right behind Ray on the Tigers with 36 total tackles, and his 8 TFLs and 4 sacks are among the league leaders as well. In addition, Golden has been credited with 2 pass break-ups, 3 QB hurries, and a fumble recovery this season.
Brantley has 26 total tackles this season, including 4 TFLs, and 3 sacks. He has also been credited with 4 QB hurries, 1 pass break-up, and a blocked kick.
Lucas is sitting at 23 total tackles on the season, including 4 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. He’s also recovered a fumble.
Hoch, who has missed time earlier this season, has 15 total tackles thus far, including 3.5 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. He also has been credited with 2 pass break-ups and 2 QB hurries.
Right behind Hoch in production is Harris, who at this juncture has 13 total tackles, including 3 TFLs, and 2 sacks, to go with 2 pass break-ups and 2 QB hurries.
Loud has 10 total tackles, including half a sack, and he’s been credited with 1 QBH.
Sophomore DT Josh Augusta has made 9 tackles on the season, including 2.5 TFLs, and he’s forced a fumble, and come up with an interception.
Sophomore Rickey Hatley’s gotten in on the fun, as well. He has 5 total tackles on the season, including 1 sack, and he’s forced a fumble.
Earlier this week, Ray was already focused on preparing for Vanderbilt.
“We’re going to get on the film for (Vanderbilt), and we’ll see what we have to prepare for,” explained Ray. “And, we’ll be ready!”
Also earlier this week, Missouri Defensive Line Coach Craig Kuligowski talked about what the Tigers look for in recruiting defensive linemen.
“We recruit guys to play defensive line in our defense,” explained Coach Kool. “We value speed over size……………………………………… So basically when the ball is thrown, we want to have four guys running like linebackers.”
Coach Kool talked about the maturation and development of his young defensive linemen.
“Maturity is huge! Guys grow up, and they play much better,” said Coach Kool. “They’re accountable to the team. They lead. They do all of these things that the first couple of years, it’s tough for them.”
Harold Brantley did a lot of growing up this year.
“When we were recruiting (Harold Brantley), we saw his extreme explosiveness,” said Coach Kool. “And, he’s fast. He’s got good change of direction. He’s tough. He’s physical. (He has) all the things, really, that we look for in a defensive tackle. And so we had a high expectation for him ever since he got here. And I think now, his expectations and, you know, his performance, are at our level for him. I really think that he’s getting there………………………………………. He’s going to be a great player!”
Coach Kool was reluctant to compare Brantley to former Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson. But he did allow that there are some similarities.
“Sheldon was pretty good,” quipped Coach Kool.
Coach Kool said that a key ingredient he looks for in defensive line prospects is the desire to be great.
“Really, every really good guy that we’ve had here, they were guys that were not only very physically talented, but they were guys who had that desire to be great, explained Coach Kool. “And, they put in the work.”
The veterans like Lucas Vincent, Matt Hoch, and Shane Ray have told me that they haven’t seen a harder working, more driven defensive lineman during their time at Missouri than Charles Harris. They have all expressed the opinion that Harris possesses the talent and especially the work ethic to be great.
“Charles (Harris) is really probably ahead, you know, of where my expectations would have been for him at this point,” said Coach Kool. “He’s still a red-shirt freshman. He’s not doing everything right all the time, but it’s not for lack of trying. It’s not for lack of focus. It’s not for lack of studying. He’s just going through the (developmental) process.”
“Marcus Loud shows up in the games and plays as physical, probably as any red-shirt freshman defensive end we’ve had,” said Coach Kool. “So, I’m real pleased with that!”
“Josh Augusta, I think is getting better,” continued Coach Kool. “You know, he didn’t really have any tackles last game, but certainly, I think he impacted the game. He was able to get some push off the ball last game that I think was a positive for us.”
Coach Kuligowski praised Rickey Hatley, who has switched back and forth between defensive end and defensive tackle.
“Rickey Hatley’s been doing good,” said Coach Kool. “We’ve moved him all over the place and he’s never complained. He does whatever he’s asked. And, he does it because he’s loyal to our team. When it’s all said and done, he’s probably going to end up being a defensive tackle. But he knows what he’s doing at every position, which is a big help to our team.”
I asked Coach Kuligowski about the freshmen DEs who have been working on the scout team since fall camp?
“I don’t get to see them as much,” replied Coach Kool, talking about Spencer Williams and Rocel McWilliams. “But, I hear good things (about them). I’ve heard (that they’re progressing). Hopefully, they’ll be ready to compete by the spring. They’re going to have to (be).”