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Who’s Next Up for D-Line ZOU?


(Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press) 

The Missouri Tigers defense is one of the tops in all of college football. Most of the credit goes to the many NFL talents Gary Pinkel has produced at the defensive line and more specifically the defensive end position. From Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy, or Shane Ray the Tigers consistently churn out top talents from the nicknamed group “D-Line Zou”.

With the departure of defensive ends Markus Golden and Ray the question now is, who will step up and fill their big shoes? The same question was asked last season after Michael Sam and Ealy departed for the NFL, but Ray and Golden had already seen plenty of action. Despite getting less than 50 percent of snaps, Golden lead the Tigers at the defensive end position in 2013 with 55 tackles. Similarly Ray contributed with 39 tackles in his reserve role.

For the upcoming season it remains to be seen who will start at the defensive end position. Until about a week ago it was pretty clear Charles Harris and Marcus Loud would be taking over the starting spots, but Loud’s dismissal makes things a bit more interesting.

Mizzou defensive lineman Charles Harris participates in drills during the fourth spring practice Tues. March 18, 2014. (Photo Courtesy: Garypinkel.com)

Mizzou defensive lineman Charles Harris participates in drills during the fourth spring practice Tues. March 18, 2014.
(Photo Courtesy: Garypinkel.com)

For those unaware, Loud was dismissed last week by the team for an undisclosed violation of team  policies. He contributed off and on last season as Golden’s backup with 14 tackles as a redshirt freshman.

The dismissal opens up a spot for a number of candidates, though none of which has played a snap at defensive end. Rocel McWilliams is the next in line on the depth chart behind Loud. McWilliams redshirted last season, but during his high school senior season he registered 73 tackles and seven sacks.

Missouri has options from the incoming class of recruits as well. The highly touted prospect Terry Beckner Jr. is an option, though as of now it looks like the coaching staff will try and use him more in the defensive tackle position.

However, it still remains to be seen if Beckner will even be eligible to play this upcoming season. Pinkel said last week that he had “some work to do” regarding his academics, but Dave Matter and others reported today that he should be okay.

Additionally the Tigers added two more defensive end recruits in Nate Howard from St. Louis and junior college transfer Marcell Frazier. As David Morrison of the Columbia Tribune noted in an earlier article, Frazier has three years of eligibility left suggesting he could be a likely candidate to fill Loud’s role.

Maty Mauk vs. UCF  (Photo Courtesy: Kansas City.com)

Maty Mauk vs. UCF
(Photo Courtesy: Kansas City.com)

Whoever is chosen to fill the starting role, one thing is certain, the expectations are high. With back-to-back SEC East championships and 24 wins the past two seasons under its belt, Missouri is looking to take its program to the next level. The fact of the matter remains that until the Tigers win an SEC championship outright over the much tougher SEC West, some will continue to doubt the teams legitimacy. Everyone in Columbia knows they’re for real, but they still have not gotten the credit they deserve from the rest of the so called “experts”.

The defensive line is the staple of this program, but the rest of the team has to step up too. Maty Mauk needs to show he can be a disciplined leader and carry the team in late game situations. Too often this past year we saw him fail to complete a full four quarters to his potential. Now with a year of experience as the starter I think he is ready to put up solid numbers and limit the interceptions problem from a year ago.

This is a very young team with very little experience offensively at the wide receiver position. Mauk needs to take control of this young core of players and improve the offensive numbers. It all starts with the quarterback position and if Missouri wants to pull in the big name recruits and put its program on the map for real then it has to come out and dominate the East. Expectations are high in Columbia, but it is the SEC and would you expect anything less? College football is 100 days away.

Follow @NickYahl on Twitter for more Missouri Tiger updates

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