.:: DEFENSE OVERVIEW ::.
The Tigers use a basic 4-3 and mix a little bit of man coverage and a little bit of zone coverage in the secondary. Sometimes they plan man on half of the field and zone on the other. At other times they play quarters. Mizzou's defensive scheme is very similar to Oregon States. Missouri ranks 35th in the nation in total defense giving up an average of 171.5 yards through the air, first the Big 12 and 19th in the nation, and 137.3 yards on the ground, seventh in the conference and 61st in the nation.
They have given up 25 touchdowns this year, 10 via the run and 15 via the pass. Opponents are averaging 3.9 yards per rush and 5.9 yards per pass. Missouri is on the plus side (+2) of the turnover margin as they have forced 26 turnovers, 14 fumbles and 12 interceptions, while losing 24.
Missouri has given up 216 first downs, 20 resulting from penalties. Opponents are converting third downs 38.6-percent of the time, seventh in the conference, and fourth down conversions 33.3-percent of the time, second in the conference. The Tigers have recorded 33 sacks, good for fourth in the conference.
Inside the redzone opponents are converting 76.5-percent of the time for a total of 20 touchdowns, nine by running and 11 by passing.
.:: DEFENSIVE LINE ::.
Unfortunately Missouri's career sack leader (31.5) and best defensive player, defensive end Brian Smith (6-4, 230), will miss the Sun Bowl after fracturing his hip midway through the season. With Smith in the lineup the defense was averaging 3.6 sacks per game, with Smith out of the lineup the Tigers managed just five total sacks in the last four games of 2006.
Taking Smith's place in the lineup is sophomore Stryker Sulak (6-5, 240), who was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team a year ago. In 12 games this year, including four starts, he has 46 tackles, including one sack, two recovered fumbles and five passes broken up. He is relentless in the Bill Swancutt mold.
Xzavie Jackson (6-4, 285) mans the left end position where he has recorded 55 tackles, including a team high 12.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, a team high 10 quarterback hurries and one interception. Jackson earned honorable mention All-Big-12 honors for his performance. Senior DeMarcus Scott (6-1, 285) and sophomore Tommy Chavis (6-2, 280) are the top backups with 30 tackles and 16 tackles, respectively.
The middle is manned by defensive tackle Ziggy Hood (6-4, 295) who has 33 tackles with four sacks and four quarterback hurries. Hood broke his foot three games into the season, but missed just three games and is slowing working his way up to 100-percent. Lining up next to Hood is junior nose tackle Lorenzo Williams (6-1, 295) who has 50 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks, a co-team high three fumble recoveries and a team high two blocked kicks. Williams is one of the unofficial team leaders both on and off the field and earned honorable mention All-Big-12 honors.
With Smith out of the lineup the offensive line should be able to handle each of the defensive line one on one although they will have to keep their eye on Jackson and Williams. Not one player is over 300-pounds so the big Beaver offensive line has a size advantage.
The Missouri defensive line has struggled to stop the rushing attack and with the Beavers size advantage up front look for OSU to pound the ball and control the clock. But, the Tigers do have a quickness advantage that could hurt the Beavs.
.:: SECONDARY ::.
Redshirt freshman Hardy Ricks (6-0, 190) and junior Darnell Terrell (6-3, 205) man the cornerback spots. Ricks took over for the injured sophomore Dominque Johnson (6-2, 200) four games into the season and has grabbed 40 tackles and one pass breakup. Terrell leads the team with seven pass breakups and has 58 tackles, three for loss and one interception. He is one of the better cornerbacks on the team and his performance earned him honorable mention all-conference honors this year..
Johnson missed five games due to a knee injury but will be fully healed for the Sun Bowl. He has 17 tackles and a co-team high two interceptions in seven games. He is an athletic, confident playmaker whom the Beavers will have to keep their eyes on.
Free safety David Overstreet (pictured right) is the leader of the secondary with 89 tackles, five pass breakups and two recovered fumbles which earned him second team All-Big 12 honors. The 6-foot, 215-pound player is a team captain in addition to being one of the emotional leaders. Overstreet has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and is the glue that holds the secondary together.
Senior Brandon Massey (6-1, 205) lines up at strong safety where he recorded 61 tackles, fifth on the team, and a co-team high two interceptions. He has started nine of 11 games after serving as a backup a year ago. Free safety William Moore (6-1, 215) is the first of the bench and is one of the better athletes on the team with 46 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups.
Mizzou has great size and athleticism at the corners, but Matt Moore and his receivers have faced NFL cornerbacks all-season long in the Pac-10. The Tigers will be very physical to try and throw off the timing routes, but their over aggressiveness could open up things downfield.
Hold onto the ball and be patient is the name of the game as the offensive line should give Moore plenty of time to survey the field and find the open receiver.
.:: LINEBACKERS ::.
Weakside linebacker Marcus Bacon (pictured right, 6-2, 220) earned first team All-Big 12 honors after grabbing a career high 103 tackles, good for fourth in the Big 12 this season. The senior added three sacks, a co-team high two interceptions, four pass breakups and a team high five forced fumbles in 12 games. Bacon recorded double digit tackles in four games and has a knack for being around the ball.
Manning the middle is senior Dedrick Harrington (6-3, 245), who earned Big 12 honorable mention honors after grabbing 95 tackles, second on the team, while adding eight tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception. Harrington is a team captain and one of the most respected members on the team. He recorded double digit tackles four times this year, including three straight.
Rounding out the starting linebacking crew on the strong side is sophomore Brock Christopher (6-2, 240) who is the team's fourth leading tackler with 82 stops, including six for loss, and two forced fumbles. Christopher is a start in the making with great sideline to sideline speed.
True freshman Sean Witherspoon (6-1, 230) is the first off of the bench and is officially listed behind Harrington at middle linebacker. Witherspoon is a special team's standout and a fearless hitter. He has 17 tackles, including one for loss. Redshirt freshman Chad Washington (6-0, 215) and sophomores Steve Redman (6-0, 235) and Van Alexander (6-1, 230) all see spot duty at linebacker although they mostly contribute on special teams.
The offense will definitely have to keep their eyes on Bacon who does a superb job of wrapping up the competition and popping the ball loose. Overall it is an athletic bunch, but nothing the Beavers can't handle.
Yesterday - Wide receivers and special teams
Tomorrow - Sun Bowl notebook