As Missouri prepares for fall camp, ShowMeMizzou.com continues our Preseason Position Previews with a look at the Tigers defensive line.
Heading into fall camp, the Tigers are going to be young up front. The 2015 Missouri defensive line is talented for sure, but most of the talent is young and in need of development and experience.
There’s more experience on the inside, where to begin fall camp, it appears likely that a pair of juniors, Rickey Hatley and Josh Augusta, will line up at first-team defensive tackle. That’s a formidable tandem. Everyone at Missouri has seen the glimpses of dominance that Augusta has displayed his first two seasons. Now, it’s time for him to be consistently dominant. Hatley is certainly one of Mizzou’s most-improved linemen. This spring, he was deservedly recognized with the Most-Improved Defensive Lineman Award. The junior had a tremendous off-season, and because of the physical gains he’s made since last season, you’ll hardly recognize Hatley when you see him.
Missouri’s best interior defensive lineman, junior Harold Brantley, was injured last month in a single-car accident, and he'll miss the 2015 season. But, he's expected to make a full recovery, and he is expected to be back on the field in 2016.
To somewhat lessen the blow of Brantley’s absence, in steps freshman Terry Beckner Jr.. Without Brantley, the talented man-child will not only push for playing time, but also for a starting job. At the very least, he’ll add quality depth up front.
In Brantley’s absence, the door is opened even wider for sophomore A.J. Logan to earn playing time in a competition for that fourth defensive tackle spot, a competition that also includes a pair of true freshmen, in Tyrell Jacobs and Josh Moore.
Heading into fall camp, Missouri has one experienced defensive end, in sophomore Charles Harris. There’s no question that he’s going to be really, really good. The only question is how soon is he going to be really, really good? Harris has spent the past two years as understudy to Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Shane Ray, and Markus Golden. He soaked up everything he could from those outstanding players. Harris is very, very talented. And his work ethic is second to none. He’s what Coach Pinkel refers to as a “visual aid”. He’s the one the coaches point to and tell the younger players, “Do what he does”.
This spring, it appeared that red-shirt freshman Walter Brady has been doing what Charles Harris does. Brady had to wait until the spring semester to join his teammates, but he’s made the most of his time at Mizzou. Not only will Brady likely enter fall camp as the starter opposite Harris, I have a feeling that he’s going to do very well. He’s a lot more athletic than maybe he was expected to be. And, he too, has that exemplary work ethic.
Although they’re young and relatively inexperienced, Harris and Brady give Missouri a pair of defensive ends who are on their way to becoming very, very good. The question is, “How soon?”
It appears that there’s going to be a real good competition for the back-up spots behind Harris and Brady. Missouri typically plays four to five defensive ends in a rotation, and those remaining two or three spots on the two-deep will be closely contested by a quartet of competitors, including just-arrived junior college transfer Marcell Frazier, true freshman Nate Howard, and red-shirt freshmen Rocel McWilliams and Spencer Williams. Williams and McWilliams have the edge in that they’ve been here for the past year, and they’ll likely begin fall camp with the second-team defense. But, Frazier and Howard are both very talented, Frazier has maturity on his side, and Howard is a talent who I think may be one of those work ethic-type guys. So, I think maybe talent wins out. At the very least, the competition will make everyone better.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart might look like along the defensive line as the Tigers head into fall camp:
56 Walter Brady 6’3” 255 (RSF)
98 Rocel McWilliams 6’2” 240 (RSF)
16 Marcell Frazier 6’5” 265 (So)
92 Justin Grava 6’3” 250 (J)
59 Jeffrey Cathey 6’1” 195 (So)
95 Rickey Hatley 6’4” 300 (J)
96 A.J. Logan 6’2” 302 (So)
94 Tyrell Jacobs 6’4” 260 (F)
88 Tyler Hanneke 6’4” 250 (J)
97 Josh Augusta 6’4” 332 (J)
79 Terry Beckner 6’4” 300 (F)
18 Josh Moore 6’5” 260 (F)
51 Ed Cruz 6’2” 230 (So)
90 Harold Brantley 6’3” 290 (J) (injured-out for season)
91 Charles Harris 6’4” 256 (So)
13 Spencer Williams 6’3” 245 (RSF)
88 Nate Howard 6’4” 230 (F)
52 Eddie Serrano 6’3” 225 (So)