MISSOURI DEFENSIVE LINE
Year: Redshirt junior
Stats: Recorded 56 tackles, including 18.5 for loss, and a team-high tying seven sacks in 12 games in 2015. Has 22.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 26 career games.
Analysis: It wasn’t that long ago Harris was a little-known recruit playing high school football in Kansas City. Now he’s one of the best defensive ends in college football and, with another good season, could be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Stats: Had 27 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, in 12 games in 2015. Has 59 tackles, including 16 for loss, and three sacks in 40 career games.
Analysis: Augusta, a 6-foot-4, 345-pound mountain of a defensive tackle, is back for his senior season and brings experience as well as talent to the middle of the defensive front. He’s not a guy who is going to put up big statistics but he’s a valuable piece of the puzzle.
Year: Redshirt senior
Stats: Had 27 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, and one sack in 2015. Has 39 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and two sacks in his career.
Analysis: Hatley started seven of 11 games last season and has played in 33 games over three seasons, giving the Tigers another experienced big fella at defensive tackle who can start or be part of a rotation up front.
Stats: Recorded 27 tackless, including 8.5 for loss, three sacks and one fumble recovery in 10 games in 2015.
Analysis: Beckner Jr., one of top recruits nationally in the Class of 2016, started five of his 10 games in his freshman season before his season-ending knee injury. He was selected for the All-SEC (Coaches) freshman team and voted the Tigers’ interior lineman of the year. He’s a breakout candidate this season and should continue to get better and better while he’s in Columbia.
Year: Redshirt junior
Stats: Had 18 tackles, including six for loss, and two sacks in 12 games.
Analysis: Frazier started the first three games at defensive end last season — his first at Missouri after transferring from a JUCO — before Walter Brady took over at that spot and could be in line to start again now that Brady is no longer a part of the team because of a violation of team rules. There will be opportunity for someone to step up into the starting defensive end spot opposite Harris and and whoever that player is should have plenty of chances to get after the quarterback.
Year: Redshirt junior
Stats: Had 21 tackles, including two for loss, and one forced fumble in 12 games in 2015.
Analysis: The 300-pound Logan, who has played in 15 games in his first two seasons, is another valuable depth and rotational guy at defensive tackle along with Augusta, Hatley and Beckner.
Stats: Had 12 tackles, including two for loss, in 11 games in 2015.
Analysis: Howard, who was one of eight true freshmen to see game action a year ago, could have a breakout performance similar to Brady in his sophomore season in 2015. Frazier and Howard could have an intriguing training camp battle for that open defensive end spot. But either way we’d expect Howard to take a big step forward in 2016.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Stats: Had nine tackles, including 0.5 for loss, in 11 games in 2015.
Analysis: Moore was rated as the 16th-best tight end nationally by Scout.com as a high school senior but made the switch to full-time defensive line when he arrived in Columbia. He flashed his potential as a true freshman a year ago and could be a breakout candidate this season.
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Stats: Had two tackles in six games in 2015.
Analysis: Another player looking to take advantage of Brady’s absence, Williams showed his potential as a high school senior in Florida when he recorded 15 sacks in 13 games.
Year: True freshmen
Analysis: Utsey, a defensive tackle, and Williams, a defensive end, both look like promising prospects for the future but it figures to be difficult for them to earn playing time with as many returning players as there are with experience ahead of them.
The big news came out Wednesday that defensive end Walter Brady and defensive tackle Harold Brantley were no longer a part of the Tigers. Both players had a chance to be special as well as establish themselves as pro prospects, but if Missouri can handle losses like that with any position group it is the defensive line.
The Tigers are still deep and talented up front, led of course by Harris. Brady’s departure will open up playing time for one of the talented youngsters and not having Brantley for the second straight season won’t be as bad because the Tigers have quality depth at defensive tackle.
This group should still be the strength of Missouri’s defense but it isn’t as strong as it looked like it would be.
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