2014 Missouri football: Recruiting and defensive needs

Bill Carter

A further look at Missouri's projected 2014 and 2015 depth charts and how the 2014 recruiting class will address future holes. Here is yesterday's post on the offense.

We continue our glance at next year's (and 2015's) depth chart and how it might be impacted by 2014 recruiting. Again, returning starters or projected returning starters are in bold.

Defensive End

2014

  • Markus Golden (Sr.), Shane Ray (Jr.)
  • Marcus Loud (RSFr.), Rickey Hatley (So.)
  • Charles Harris (RSFr.)

2015

  • Shane Ray (Sr.), Marcus Loud (So.)
  • Rickey Hatley (Jr.), Charles Harris (So.)

We're assuming Kony Ealy is gone, and technically Golden and Ray could declare for the draft as well. For both, however, I assume they will return to improve their stock. And really, Ray's a bit undersized anyway, so for now I'll have him returning in 2015. That could obviously change.

One of the biggest 2014 voids on this team won't be at first-string end, where two great ones -- Michael Sam and Ealy -- are gone. No, I'm confident in Golden and Ray replacing them; but who replaces Golden and Ray? Mizzou's wonderful depth here reaped serious rewards at times, wearing down opposing lines. Golden and Ray will be very good next year, but when they are subbed out, how much of a drop off will we see? Or can they be subbed out?

We've heard good things about Marcus Loud, Rickey Hatley (who's big enough already that I think a move to tackle isn't completely out of the equation), and Charles Harris, but at least one of them needs to be ready next year, especially since recruiting here hasn't panned out quite like we hoped.

Commits: Rocel McWilliams (6'3, 240, ***)
Still a Possibility: Elijah Lee (6'3, 203, ***, Kansas State commit), Jhonny Williams (6'6, 230, ***, Notre Dame commit)

Mizzou lost one-time commit Jhonny Williams to Notre Dame (he's listed here as a possibility because there are Internet rumors suggesting he's not 100% solid, but they're pretty iffy rumors) and lost four-star end Dante Sawyer to South Carolina. McWilliams could be a keeper, but the depth here isn't quite what we hoped to see. It will put a lot of pressure on the trio of Loud, Hatley, and Harris to produce.

Defensive Tackle

2014

  • Matt Hoch (Sr.), Harold Brantley (So.)
  • Lucas Vincent (Sr.), Josh Augusta (So.)
  • Evan Winston (So.), Nate Crawford (RSFr.)
  • DeQuinton Osborne (RSFr.), A.J. Logan (RSFr.)

2015

  • Harold Brantley (Jr.), Josh Augusta (Jr.)
  • Evan Winston (Jr.), Nate Crawford (So.)
  • DeQuinton Osborne (So.), A.J. Logan (So.)

As pleasantly surprising as the performance of the offensive line was in 2013, the play of the defensive tackles was almost as important to Mizzou's 2013 success. We feared the worst when Sheldon Richardson left, but the group as a whole improved dramatically; and as with the ends, there was minimal drop-off with the second string. And not including Marvin Foster, who was lost to injury a few weeks ago, the entire two-deep returns and is plumped up by Evan Winston and three interesting redshirt freshmen. (Nate Crawford seems to have bounced between OL and DT during his redshirt year, but it appears he's currently a DT.)

The need for DTs in the 2014 class was minimal, and ... well, that's good, because Mizzou hasn't landed one yet.

Commits: None
Still a Possibility: Calvin Heurtelou (6'3, 305, ***, JUCO), Daniel Cage (6'3, 275, ***), D.J. Williams (6'3, 270, ***)

I'm not going to say no to a 305-pound, three-star JUCO recruit, so if Calvin Heurtelou wants to sign with Mizzou, that's great. But an immediate JUCO contribution isn't really a necessity here, at least not until 2015. If Mizzou is going to land one of the three above, give me one of the freshmen. (And I swear I wrote this before the Heurtelou-to-Miami rumors began to pick up heavy steam yesterday.)

Linebacker

2014

  • Kentrell Brothers (Jr.), Darvin Ruise (Sr.), Michael Scherer (So.)
  • Donavin Newsom (So.), Clarence Green (Jr.), Eric Beisel (RSFr.)
  • Joey Burkett (RSFr.)

2015

  • Kentrell Brothers (Sr.), Michael Scherer (Jr.), Donavin Newsom (Jr.)
  • Clarence Green (Sr.), Eric Beisel (So.), Joey Burkett (So.)

Linebacker will be one of the more interesting units to watch in spring ball as Mizzou tries to figure out how to account for the loss of both Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner. The Tigers could move Kentrell Brothers to the middle, start Darvin Ruise, and let a free-for-all decide who gets the third spot. Regardless, the winner will almost certainly be somebody already on the roster. There aren't a ton of names here, but they are pretty exciting names, at least. Scherer, Newsome, Beisel, and Burkett were all pretty highly regarded MO kids in high school, and they'll get a chance to land a role. But supplements are always a good thing ... at least as it pertains to recruits.

Commits: Brandon Lee (6'2, 203, ***), Grant Jones (6'3, 215, ***), Roderick Winters (5'11, 200, ***)
Still a possibility: Vincent Jackson (6'3, 245, ***)

Lee and Winters committed as linebackers, and it appears that Grant Jones, son of Mizzou's running backs coach, might end up here, as well. Lee is one of the more highly-regarded players in this class, so he could see the field early, but he'll have to move past quite a few interesting names to do so.

Cornerback

2014

  • John Gibson (So.), Aarion Penton (So.)
  • David Johnson (Jr.), Ernest Payton (So.)
  • Xavier Smith (Sr.), Anthony Sherrils (RSFr.)

2015

  • John Gibson (Jr.), Aarion Penton (Jr.)
  • David Johnson (Sr.), Ernest Payton (Jr.)
  • Anthony Sherrils (So.)

It's easy to feel both excited and worried about the future of the cornerback position at Missouri. In losing E.J. Gaines, Mizzou is all but guaranteed a bit of a dropoff in 2014, but in Gibson and Penton, Mizzou has two sophomores-to-be who have held their own early in their careers. Plus, Johnson, Payton (coming off of an injury), and Smith have all had their moments, both on the field and in spring ball. There is some fun athleticism here, and the position gets infinitely more athletic with this incoming class.

Commits: Greg Taylor (5'11, 180, ***), Raymond Wingo (5'11, 185, ***), Logan Cheadle (5'10, 175, ***), Kenya Dennis (6'0, 190, ***, JUCO), Thomas Wilson (5'10, 176, ***), Finis Stribling IV (5'10, 170, **)
Still a Possibility: none?

Mizzou has scored commitments from six defensive backs, plus two "athletes" I ended up listing at receiver (Stepfawn Hughes and Tavon Ross). All five of the high school commits are sized more like corners than safeties, so I'm listing them all here, but some of them will end up at the safety position. (While Mizzou would love another 6'2, 210-pound William Moore specimen, the Tigers have proven through the years that they can get by with smaller guys.) I'm just not sure which ones.

(Dennis is apparently being groomed to take over as nickel back next year, which is ... well, kinda corner, kinda safety.)

Regardless, between Gibson and Penton and some tremendous prospects, the cornerback position could be a strength for future Missouri defenses even if it's still in transition in 2014.

Safety

2014

  • Braylon Webb (Sr.), Ian Simon (Jr.)
  • Duron Singleton (Sr.), Cortland Browning (Jr.)
  • Daniel Easterly (Sr.), Chaston Ward (So.)
  • Shaun Rupert (RSFr.)

2015

  • Ian Simon (Sr.), Cortland Browning (Sr.)
  • Chaston Ward (Jr.), Shaun Rupert (So.)

Mizzou has been competent at safety in 2013 (yes, even with the showing against Auburn), and with the return of Webb, Simon, and Singleton, the Tigers should be fine there again in 2014. Not great, but fine. (I listed Simon on the first string for next year, but if Singleton's late-season growth is any indication, he could easily start next year.) And while the 2014 class indeed has a lot of interesting athletes at defensive back, one would think the eventual safeties might need to put on a little weight before seeing the field. Mizzou will need one or two of them to come through in 2015 but probably won't expect any in 2014.

Commits: see above
Still a Possibility: Kaleb Prewitt (6'2, 200, ***, Kansas State commit), Jimmy Bayes (6'3, 200, ****, USF commit)

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