Prior to the 2014 season, after coming off of an SEC East division championship that featured Missouri’s greatest defensive line to date, and after the loss to graduation of SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Unanimous All-American Michael Sam, and the loss of second round pick Kony Ealy, who left early for the NFL, most “experts” expected that Missouri’s defensive line would take a step back.
ShowMeMizzou.com, however, knew that Missouri’s 2014 defensive line might be even better than Missouri’s 2013 defensive line. Indeed, that turned out to be true, as in 2014, Missouri fielded their best defensive line yet, including three players who received All-SEC recognition, and Missouri’s second straight SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and a Consensus All-American.
The defensive end duo of Markus Golden and Shane Ray accomplished a first in Missouri school history, by becoming the first pair of defensive linemen in Mizzou history to each record double-digit sacks in a single season.
Ray and Golden, or Golden-Ray, book-ended Missouri’s best-yet defensive line, which anchored Missouri’s best-yet defense under 2014 SEC Coach of the Year, Gary Pinkel.
Golden finished the season with 78 tackles, including 20 tackles-for-loss, and 10 sacks, to go along with 12 QB hurries, 2 pass-break-ups, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. He was named Second-Team All-SEC (SEC coaches) and Honorable Mention All-SEC (AP). Golden was not only one of Missouri’s most-productive-ever DEs, but he was an inspirational leader for his teammates. He has a huge heart for Mizzou. His love for all things Mizzou spread contagiously throughout the Tigers during 2014, on and off the field. He was a great player at Mizzou, and a great, great team leader. Markus Golden left a legacy at Missouri by making common-place in referring to Mizzou the phrase: D-line U.
In 2014, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Consensus First-Team All-American, Shane Ray, set the single-season sack record at Missouri, with 14.5 sacks. On the season, Ray made 65 tackles, including 22.5 TFLs, to go along with his record sack total, 5 QBHs, 1 PBU, and 3 forced fumbles.
Following the Citrus Bowl, Ray announced that he was foregoing his final year of eligibility to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. He is projected to be drafted near the top of the 1st round.
Coach Pinkel has identified Ray as one of the top 5 competitors that he’s ever been around, including Ray in that category along with Pinkel’s former teammate, Jack Lambert, and a former All-American at Washington, Steve Emtman.
If Golden is the spokesman for D-line U, Ray is a walking advertisement for Mizzou-Made.
Defensive tackle Harold Brantley received Honorable Mention All-SEC (AP) after a sophomore season in which he made 54 tackles, including 7 TFLs, and 5 sacks, to go along with 7 QB hurries, 3 PBUs, 2 blocked kicks, and a fumble recovery. The quick-footed Brantley also picked up a pair of first downs on punt fakes, as he ran for 29 yards on 2 carries out of punt formation. As good as Brantley is, the sophomore is just getting started!
Missouri had a pair of senior defensive tackles who enjoyed very productive seasons. Lucas Vincent enjoyed his best season as a Missouri Tiger, with 43 total tackles, including 8 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks, to go along with 2 QBHs, and a fumble recovery. And while Matt Hock missed a ton of practice time, he only missed 1 game. He finished the season with 35 tackles, including 9 TFLs, and 3 sacks, to go along with 2 QBHs, and 2 PBUs.
The fourth defensive tackle in the regular rotation for Missouri was Josh Augusta, who just continued to get better throughout the season. As the season went along, Augusta more frequently displayed bursts of dominance, including separating ball-carriers from the football. Despite often drawing a double team, the sophomore finished the season with 23 total tackles, including 4.5 TFLs, and 1 sack, to go along with 3 QBHs, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception. He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can become, and he showed progress in his development as a player throughout the season.
A pair of red-shirt freshmen each saw regular playing time behind Golden and Ray at defensive end. Charles Harris backed up Ray on the right side, and he not only gained valuable experience, but he also performed very well. On the season, Harris made 19 total tackles, including 4 TFLs, and 2 sacks, to go along with 4 QBHs, 2 PBUs, and a forced fumble. On the other side, Marcus Loud backed up Golden, and he too, not only gained experience, but he was also very productive for a first-year player. On the season, Loud made 14 tackles, including 1 TFL, and 0.5 sacks, to go along with 2 QBHs, and a PBU.
During the 2014 season, sophomore Rickey Hatley played at defensive end and at defensive tackle. He was the fifth man in the rotation at both spots, and he finished the season with 11 tackles, including 1 sack, and a forced fumble.
In addition to the nine players in Missouri’s regular defensive line rotation, sophomore Evan Winston and red-shirt freshman A.J. Logan each saw very limited playing time at defensive tackle. Here’s what the Depth Chart looked like along the defensive line during most of the season:
DE 33 Markus Golden 6’3” 260 (S) 35 Marcus Loud 6’4” 250 (RSF) 95 Rickey Hatley 6’4” 280 (So) 98 Rocel McWilliams 6’3” 245 (F)
DT 89 Matt Hoch 6’5” 295 (S) OR 96 Lucas Vincent 6’2” 288 (S) 50 Evan Winston 6’3” 300 (So) 79 Adam Franklin 6’0” 265 (J )
DT 90 Harold Brantley 6’3” 280 (So) 97 Josh Augusta 6’4” 332 (So) 75 A.J. Logan 6’2” 302 (RSF) 99 David Butler 6’4” 280 (S)
DE 56 Shane Ray 6’3” 245 (J) 91 Charles Harris 6’3” 248 (RSF) 93 Spencer Williams 6’4” 230 (F) 92 Justin Grava 6’3” 260 (So) 52 Eddie Serrano 6’3” 225 (RSF) 88 Tyler Hanneke 6'4" 235 (So)