Spring Ball Outlook 2015: Defensive Line

As the Missouri Tigers ready for the beginning of Spring Football, ShowMeMizzou.com delivers with a preview of the defensive line.

As the Missouri Tigers ready for the beginning of Spring Football, ShowMeMizzou.com delivers with a preview of the defensive line.

This spring, D-Line Zou is a little thin at the defensive tackle position, just in terms of numbers, although there are quality returning defensive tackles at the top of the Depth Chart.

And just in terms of numbers, there’s a little more depth on the outside, although there’s not as much game experience returning at the defensive end position. But there are three red-shirt freshmen defensive ends in the mix this spring, and I suspect that the Tigers may address their temporary shortage of defensive tackles, at least during the spring, by having one of the defensive ends slide inside. Just from the standpoint of size, it would appear that someone like Justin Grava or Walter Brady might be candidates to slide over and play defensive tackle this spring.

The Tigers do return a pair of experienced juniors at defensive tackle, including Harold Brantley and Josh Augusta. This may be Brantley’s final spring at Missouri, as he appears to be a strong candidate to put together the kind of season that would elevate his draft status for the 2016 NFL Draft. Brantley would appear to be on track for a dominant 2015 season.

Augusta will also be eligible to leave for the NFL after this season, but it appears that he may be at least a little less likely to exit early. The big man is capable of putting together the kind of dominant season that would propel him toward the top of the draft boards, and that kind of domination would be rooted in his off-season regimen and would begin to be evident this spring.

With a pair of potential early entrants to the NFL at the top of the Depth Chart at defensive tackle, this spring will be devoted to their continued development, but also focused on the identification and development of their back-ups.

With three freshmen defensive tackles due to arrive in time for fall camp, and with one of them expected to play this fall, Spring Football offers an opportunity for the potential back-up defensive tackles to establish themselves on the Depth Chart and to begin to earn their place in the playing rotation for this fall. Included among the defensive tackle candidates this spring are juniors Rickey Hatley and Evan Winston, and sophomore A.J. Logan. My expectation for this spring is that one of the defensive ends may slide over, at least during the spring, and get some work at defensive tackle, whether it would be Grava, Brady, or possibly even Rocel McWilliams.

Missouri enters the spring with a pair of experienced sophomores at the top of the Depth Chart at the defensive end position. They’re not as experienced or as accomplished at present as the starting defensive tackles, but Charles Harris and Marcus Loud have each shown themselves capable. This off-season, including Spring Football, is a critically important time in their development. This is their second spring in preparation of their third year on campus, and it’s their time to begin to reach the standard of play established by their predecessors. I’m looking forward to seeing these two on the field this spring.

There will also be considerable focus on the identification and development of their back-ups. With two more defensive ends due to arrive in time for fall camp, and again, with one of those expected to immediately compete for playing time this fall, Spring Football offers an opportunity for numerous quality reps for a trio of red-shirt freshmen DEs. In January, Brady was cleared to begin working out and practicing with the team, so this spring will offer our first opportunity to see him on the field. This spring is also his first opportunity to begin to compete for a spot on the two-deep, and for the coaching staff to work with him, and see what he brings.

The team needs red-shirt freshmen Spencer Williams and Rocel McWilliams to step it up this spring. There’s a great opportunity available for one or both of them to prove themselves and to establish themselves in the minds of their coaches and teammates. Last fall, I thought that Williams was ahead of McWilliams, although they’re certainly different types of players. Each of them needed a strong off-season to hasten their development and to prepare them to play significantly this year.

Here’s what the Depth Chart might look like along the defensive line at the beginning of the spring:

DE 35 Marcus Loud 6’4” 270 (So) 92 Justin Grava 6’3” 260 (J) 98 Rocel McWilliams 6’3” 245 (RSF) 94 Walter Brady 6’3” 265 (RSF) 74 Jeffrey Cathey 6’1” 195 (So)

DT 97 Josh Augusta 6’4” 332 (J) 50 Evan Winston 6’3” 300 (J) 75 A.J. Logan 6’2” 302 (So)

DT 90 Harold Brantley 6’3” 300 (J) 95 Rickey Hatley 6’4” 280 (J)

DE 91 Charles Harris 6’3” 248 (So) 93 Spencer Williams 6’4” 230 (RSF) 52 Eddie Serrano 6’3” 225 (So) 88 Tyler Hanneke 6'4" 235 (J)


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