2011 Missouri Football Preview: Defensive Tackles

Terrell Resonno just wants you to know that you ... you got what he needs... (Photos via Bill Carter)

2011 Missouri Football Preview
Analysis: Dave Matter | Michael Atchison
Opponents: Miami (Ohio) | Arizona State | Western Illinois | Oklahoma | Kansas State | Iowa State | Oklahoma State | Texas A&M
Unit Walkthroughs: Quarterback (Bonus) | Running Backs | Wide Receivers (Bonus) | Tight Ends | Offensive Line | Defensive Ends (Bonus)

How important is a defensive tackle? Ask anybody who saw the last two Missouri-Nebraska games. Or, perhaps, ask anybody who saw Missouri play after Dominique Hamilton got injured last season. A good defensive tackle can eat up blockers, make a few plays, and open up the linebackers to be great. A great defensive tackle in a four-man line can almost serve as a one-man blitz, imploding the offensive line’s interior and forcing quarterbacks and/or running backs to abandon the script without sending any more men toward the line of scrimmage. Strength at the defensive tackle position can make more of a difference than perhaps any other position on the defensive side of the ball.

There are also perhaps fewer high-quality tackles in existence than at any other position on the defensive side of the ball. Missouri saw a good one get hurt last season. He returns in 2010, and Missouri welcomes the most highly-touted (and eccentric) tackle they have ever signed. There is perhaps more potential involved with Missouri’s corps of tackles than ever before. Will potential become reality?

#90 Dominique Hamilton (6’5, 305, Sr., El Paso, Texas)

Is Dominique Hamilton 2010 the new version of Brian Smith 2006? Hamilton’s absence highlighted the fragility of Mizzou’s depth in the middle. He may have taken part in only 20 tackles in seven games (two for a loss), but his time away gave credence to the notion that he may be the single most vital cog to Missouri’s defensive success in 2011.

After Hamilton’s injury, the Missouri defense continued to play at a reasonably high level, but that was primarily due to solid pass defense; a run defense that was already the shakier part of the D very clearly and demonstrably got worse in Hamilton’s absence. Hamilton’s statistics show the conundrum when it comes to evaluating defensive tackles. Some great tackles make a ton of big plays. Others make almost none. Hamilton was not ‘great’ by any means, but he was very good, and his absence hit the Tigers harder than Aldon Smith’s. Here's to hoping his presence makes a significant difference in 2011.

#93 Terrell Resonno (6’5, 295, Sr., Jefferson City, Mo.)

Three years into his career, it doesn’t seem like Resonno will reach the level of the rare transcendental tackle, but that’s no problem provided one very important thing happens: He isn’t called upon to be the No. 1. He served admirably in the back end of 2010, but Mizzou’s defense takes on a different dimension when defenses have to account for Hamilton while Resonno is able to keep the linebackers free. At the beginning of their sophomore seasons in 2009, Resonno briefly got an edge on Hamilton and started the season alongside Jaron Baston. Hamilton quickly overtook him, but Resonno has still seen plenty of playing time in his career thanks mostly to a nice combination of strength and quickness. Projecting Hamilton’s seven-game pace out over 13 games, you get, basically, Resonno’s stats. But it was when they weren’t making the plays that separated these two. Resonno is a solid No. 2, and if things go as Mizzou fans hope in 2011, he may never have to be anything better than a great No. 3.

#94 Marvin Foster (6’2, 300, So., Ft. Worth, Texas)

For the first time since arriving at Missouri, Marvin Foster actually stayed healthy, more or less, this past fall. In spot occasions, he made several plays that didn’t show up in the box score – steering a runner back toward the middle of the field, flushing a quarterback out of the pocket, etc. – but wasn’t able to differentiate himself from Burge and Donaldson. The winner of the Burge-Donaldson-Foster derby instantly becomes a prominent factor in the tackle rotation. The youngest of the trio, Foster could stake a claim to steady playing time for the next three years if he continues to get healthier and show what seemed like solid quickness for a 6’2, 300-pound tree stump.

#91 Jimmy Burge (6’2, 290, Jr., Houston, Texas)

Burge has displayed a bit of a wild side in his time in Columbia, both on the field and off. He is an energetic competitor, and though he’ll factor prominently in the rotation, the appearance of Sheldon Richardson may keep him no higher than No. 4 on Mizzou’s list of defensive tackles for 2011.

#58 Brendan Donaldson (6’2, 285, Sr., St. Joseph, Mo.)

Who doesn’t like the "walk-on makes good" story? Donaldson – a former walk-on offensive lineman – squeezed his way into the rotation when Hamilton went down, and he even had a few nice plays to show for it. Donaldson’s strength is in his base; it seems that approximately 260 of his 285 pounds are in his legs. In theory, he will compete for the No. 4 spot in the rotation with Burge and the returnees listed below.

#99 George White (6’4, 285, Jr., Flint, Mich.)

George White was in the car with Marquis Booker and Jeremy Maclin when Booker unexpectedly flashed a gun outside a party and got himself kicked off the team. In other words, he’s been around a while. He hasn’t really ever seen the field, but he’s been around a while. And unless MUtigers.com is lying, he still has a bit more eligibility left after 2011.

#96 Lucas Vincent (6’3, 300, RS Fr., Olathe, Kan.)

More or less, with a wrestling background, Vincent can be considered the Justin Britt of the defensive line. His feet and overall strength have been lauded, and he appeared to be one of the more high-upside kids in the recruiting class of 2010. Unfortunately, injuries sidetracked him just enough to assure a redshirt in August. Though a competition between Burge, Donaldson and Foster already exists, Vincent will have every chance to surpass all three of them, and from the results of a Rock M Nation poll last winter, many fans already expect him to do so.

INCOMING

#34 Sheldon Richardson (6’4, 310, So., St. Louis, Mo., Rivals 5-Star)

For years, this was the only known picture of Sheldon Richardson.

The soap opera surrounding Richardson’s recruitment, re-recruitment, re-re-recruitment, and re-re-re-recruitment to Mizzou has been well-documented. Long story short? He committed to Mizzou very, very early. Flirted with Miami and others. Signed with Mizzou. Didn’t qualify. Re-committed to Mizzou. Started flirting some more. Visited USC and committed on the spot. Quietly let his family and Mizzou coaches talk him out of it. Signed with Mizzou again in December 2010. Was supposed to finish his junior college requirements in December but apparently came one course short. Finished said course this spring. Was apparently still a course short. Finished said course this summer. And, yes, that was the short version.

Through all the drama, it became easy to forget one thing: two years ago, Rivals named him the No. 4 recruit in the country. Other former No. 4 recruits include Julio Jones, Ryan Mallett and Gerald McCoy. Missouri fans often get excited -- and justifiably so -- about the high ceilings involved with some of Missouri’s two- and three-star recruits in a given year. Richardson’s upside dwarfs all of them. At 270 pounds, he returned kickoffs for his high school while also recording 19 sacks, five forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, six defensive touchdowns, 27 catches for 541 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. At one point, he dreamed of playing defensive end, defensive tackle, and tight end in college, and nobody who had seen him play questioned whether he could. Just like the Candy formation, in which Aldon Smith moved inside to give Mizzou extreme quickness on passing downs, Richardson could play the role of Smith on just about every down.

He showed up for camp this August at 310 pounds but has held his own, dominating in one-on-one drills and trying to find his way in scrimmages. The recruiting drama surrounding Richardson distracted us from the fact that he is likely the most high-upside recruit of the Gary Pinkel Era, and if he comes close to meeting his potential in 2011, the defense takes on a whole new dimension.

2011 vs 2010

In 2003-04, Mizzou had C.J. Mosley and Atiyyah Ellison. In 1997-98, they had the likes of Pat Mingucci, Steve Erickson, Terrell Jurineack and Justin Wyatt. Assuming full health and utilization of upside, this group of D-tackles could certainly surpass either of those units. The ceiling: Francis Peay and the best DT units from the 1960s. The floor: last year’s tackles or a bit better. Even if you're taking an "I'll believe it when I see it" approach with Richardson, this unit sees everybody return – presumably healthy – while adding Johnson and Vincent to the mix. That alone signals potential improvement.

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