High Expectations Remain For Missouri Defense

The University of Missouri returns eight starters from one of the top defenses in the country last season.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Michael Scherer wasn’t shy about his expectations for the University of Missouri defense on the first day of spring practice.

“I think we want to be better than last year, no doubt,” said Scherer, a redshirt senior middle linebacker. “We finished like top five in the country in the country last year. I think we want to beat that. We talk a lot about how last year, yeah, we were No. 5 in the country but that got us five wins and on the couch in January. That’s not where we want to be. 

“We want to have a defense that can win us games if we need to. We’re going to attack a lot more, we’re going to be a lot more aggressive and we’re not going to be scared of anybody. We’re going to go at teams and I think it’s going to help us a lot.”

The Tigers return eight starters from last year’s group — and six starters in the front seven — that finished sixth nationally in scoring defense (16.2 points per game) and ninth in total defense (302 yards per game). 

They will have to replace All-American outside linebacker Kentrell Brothers and two starters in the secondary, but the Tigers will get back talented defensive tackle Harold Brantley after he missed last season. 

Barry Odom, the defensive coordinator a year ago, was hired as Missouri’s head coach after Gary Pinkel’s retirement. Odom then chose his former Mizzou teammate, DeMontie Cross, as his replacement as the defensive coordinator. 

Cross, who returns to Missouri after serving as TCU’s co-defensive coordinator, has made a strong early impression on his players, Scherer said.

“He’s a fiery guy,” Scherer said. “He’s really passionate. He played here. He’s passionate about Mizzou. He’s passionate about making this defense better than what it was before and winning games. Cause at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how good the defense is or how good the offense is if you don’t win games. He’s really brought a real fiery attitude to our defense.”

The Tigers lost their leading tackler, Brothers, but return five of their top six tacklers — Scherer, strong safety Anthony Sherrils, outside linebacker Donavin Newsom, cornerback Aarion Penton and defensive end Charles Harris

Harris led Mizzou with 18.5 tackles for loss and tied opposite defensive end, Walter Brady, for the team lead with seven sacks. Harris earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors. 

There’s plenty of talent still on the Tigers’ roster along with young players looking to ascend into bigger roles. 

Defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. recorded three sacks in 10 games during his freshman season last fall. Cameron Hilton, who like Beckner will be a sophomore next season, switched back from wide receiver to free safety and could earn a starting job. 

It will be difficult for the Tigers to repeat last season’s success as a defense, but Odom, Cross and Co. have enough talent returning to have a chance to do it. 

Nate Latsch-Scout.com

Related content: 

Missouri holds first spring practice

Watch: Missouri defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross

Watch: Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel

2016 MIZZOU SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

QUARTERBACKS | RUNNING BACKS | WIDE RECEIVERS | TIGHT ENDS | OFFENSIVE LINE | DEFENSIVE LINE | LINEBACKERS | DEFENSIVE BACKS | SPECIAL TEAMS

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com


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