posted on August 01, 2012 00:00
Leading up to the start of Missouri's preseason camp on August 2, we'll take a look at each position, breaking down the incumbents, the new names and the story lines that will begin to form the narrative of Missouri's first season in the SEC. Today, we'll continue with the defensive line.
INCUMBENTS: DE Brad Madison (RS Sr.), DT Sheldon Richardson (RS Jr.), DT Lucas Vincent (RS So.), DE Michael Sam (RS Jr.)
I know, I know -- Matt Hoch is listed as a starter at defensive tackle ahead of Vincent for now. However, I put Vincent as an incumbent because Hoch has not seen game action at the position yet, and with Missouri's rotation, Vincent will see the field regardless of his starting position. After knee and shoulder injuries slowed Madison a year ago, he'll be fully healthy and ready to try and duplicate his break-out 2010 season. Richardson is the star of this group, and after finishing strong, he'll need an All-SEC type year to solidify Missouri's play up-front. Michael Sam gets the nod over Kony Ealy for now. Sam bulked up to 265-pounds and could be a major factor against the run.
CHALLENGERS: DE Kony Ealy (RS So.), DT Matt Hoch (RS So.), DE Shane Ray (RS Fr.), DE Brayden Burnett (RS Jr.), DT Harold Brantley (Fr.), DT Evan Winston (Fr.)
Missouri will rotate at least eight players across the line, and this will be the most heavily scrutinized position group on the roster. Ealy has shown flashes of that four-star athleticism, but now he needs to become a complete package. If he does, he'll be starting sooner rather than later. Hoch is the starter for now after a very, very impressive spring, but he'll need to continue that consistency to remain the starter. Ray is a prototypical speed-rusher off the edge, and he could be a major factor in passing downs. I expect at least one of the freshmen to play and add depth to the middle of the line.
STORYLINES: Can Missouri's defensive line hold up in the SEC?
Fair or not, this will be a big issue for the Tigers in 2012. Missouri doesn't have the beefiest line, as it seemed to be built to defend the spread passing offenses in the Big 12. Now they'll go against strong run teams nearly every week. Instead of getting into the backfield on every down, Missouri's linemen will have to occupy blockers and let Missouri's linebackers get a lot of the glory. This unit will have to be the most disciplined on the field and know their responsibilities on every single play. Missouri has an NFL player in Richardson. The rest will have to play above expectations to hold their own.