(Photo by Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian)
Lost in the Missouri Tigers incredibly underwhelming 4-4 record (1-4 in SEC play) is a defense that has been nothing short of incredible. The latest scoring rankings puts the Tigers’ offense at 127th nationally (out of 128) and the defense at 5th.
Let’s keep in mind that because this offense has been that bad, the defense has been on the field for about 2/3 of each game.
While the notion that “defense wins championships” may have just been completely squashed by this Missouri team, we all need to recognize just how good they are.
They give up an average of 12.5 points per game, and have given up a total of 33 points in their last three games, and that wasn’t good enough as the Tigers dropped all three to Florida, Georgia, and Vanderbilt.
Individually, just about every player on this defense has been doing their job.
Whoever is carrying the ball, LB Kentrell Brothers will find him. 103 tackles through nine games is good for the best in the country, and he has played his way into top two rounds NFL Draft consideration. He has 40 more tackles than the 2nd leading tackler on the team. 40.
DE Charles Harris has been on a complete tear. He has six sacks and an incredible 15.5 tackles for loss which is leads the SEC. Oh and he was responsible for all of the Tigers’ points on Saturday with his sack-strip. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even have a Rivals.com profile until the day he signed with Missouri.
The man opposite of him, Walter Brady, has six sacks of his own and 9.5 tackles for loss. Brady is only a redshirt freshman and amazingly didn’t even practice until the spring because he was a partial qualifier out of high school.
DT Terry Beckner Jr. is an absolute freak. What he has done as a true freshman in the SEC is remarkable; three sacks and seven tackles for loss and wreaking havoc on nearly every play, and he has just scratched the surface of his potential. I know he was the No. 2 recruit by ESPN but that is simply incredible for someone who hasn’t been through an offseason of a college training program (which has worked very well for countless Missouri Tigers).
CBs Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis have more than held their own against their competition so far. If not for a couple bogus pass interference penalties on Penton the Tigers may be 6-2 instead of 4-4, but that’s neither here nor there. Dennis will be a late second-to mid round draft pick this year and Penton will be an absolute stud come 2017 when his name will be called.
Ian Simon and Anthony Sherrils have done a good job at safety as there have very few times the Tigers have been beaten over the top.
How could we forget about Michael Scherer? His multiple double digit tackle games are going unnoticed because of how active Brothers is. He is going to be a household name, maybe not this year but next year when he will be the main tackler.
There are many other names that weren’t even mentioned, but it goes to show the kind of depth and the plethora of playmakers defensive coordinator Barry Odom has at his disposal.
The best part is, next year the offense should be better (how can it get worse?) and virtually the entire defense is returning. Those leaving are Simon, Dennis, and Brothers. Now those are key players, losing Brothers will be a big blow, but eight of 11 returning starters from currently the 5th best defense in college football is a very good sign.
It’s a lot easier to focus on the shortcomings of the offense, but this defense’s dominance is going unnoticed. Brothers is worthy of an All-American honor and potentially the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Harris is all-conference worthy, and Beckner could very well be the top freshman in the country.
The record isn’t pretty, but rest easy Missouri fans, better days are ahead. Until next year when the offense develops, enjoy watching this defense, it’s way more entertaining than watching the offense.