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Mizzou 2009, Part Ten: Defensive Line

Okay, so we've worked ourselves into an optimistic frenzy on offense (it's August--show me a fanbase that isn't excited right now).  What about the defense?  Buzz kill or buzzsaw?

Defensive Line

This pic was too good not to use again.

2008 Unit Ranking: #14 in the nation (#3 in the Big 12)

Projected Depth Chart
DT Jaron Baston (6'1, 305, Sr.)
DE Aldon Smith (6'5, 255, RSFr.)
DE Jacquies Smith (6'4, 250, So.)
DT Terrell Resonno (6'6, 295, So.)
DE Brian Coulter (6'4, 250, Sr.)
DT Dominique Hamilton (6'6, 300, So.)
DE Brad Madison (6'4, 260, RSFr.)
DT Jimmy Burge (6'2, 285, RSFr.)
DT George White (6'4, 280, RSFr.)
DE Marcus Malbrough (6'5, 255, RSFr.)
DT Chris Earnhardt (6'5, 270, So.)
DT Andy Maples (6'4, 310, Sr.)
DT Bart Coslet (6'5, 260, Jr.)
DT Mark Ellis (6'2, 270, Sr.)

1. What kind of every-down potential do we have in our three-headed end monster?  We all know about the athletic potential of Jacquies Smith, Aldon Smith, and Brian God Coulter.  We're all excited about the possibilities of these guys rushing the passer.  But you can only really pin your ears back and attack on Passing have to force Passing Downs first.  Mizzou was very good against the run last year, and while a lot of that has to do with Sean Weatherspoon and the linebackers, credit too goes to Ziggy Hood, Jaron Baston, Tommy Chavis, and Stryker Sulak, last year's starting D-line.

We haven't seen the lawfirm of Smith, Coulter, and Smith in every-down action yet, nor do we know who will be starting next to Baston at DT, so we don't know how good or bad the line will be against the run.  We know that at 275+ pounds, Chavis was seen as more of a run stopping end than a pass rusher, and we know that nobody in the current corps of ends is that big.  But clearly pure weight doesn't tell the story.  TCU, Texas, and Tennessee were #1-3 against the run (according to Rushing S&P+) last year, and while they had some reasonably big guys (Texas' Henry Melton was around 280, Tennessee's Robert Ayers 270), most DEs on these squads were within the same 250-265 range as Mizzou's.

Can stats tell us anything about run support?  Maybe a little.  Here are the percentages of tackles each of last year's Mizzou linemen made against the run or pass (sacks count against the pass, FYI).

  • Jacquies Smith: 87% of tackles came against the run
  • Jaron Baston: 80%
  • Tommy Chavis: 72%
  • Ziggy Hood: 71%
  • Brian Coulter: 68%
  • Stryker Sulak: 61%

So if we conclude that Jacquies Smith really is a versatile player in the passing game (that's the perception, anyway), then he must be pretty good against the run.  His "against the run" totals were higher Chavis', and Coulter's were higher than Sulak's, so consider that at least a small test passed.  (And yes, they could have had high "against the run" %'s because they did nothing against the pass, not because they were particularly good against the run.  I think we've made it clear that there are no wonderful lineman statistics.  This is what we have to work with.)

What if we just looked at "successful" tackles (i.e. tackles that prevented a successful play for the offense)?

  • Jacquies Smith: 90% of successful tackles came against the run
  • Jaron Baston: 78%
  • Brian Coulter: 75%
  • Tommy Chavis: 73%
  • Ziggy Hood: 69%
  • Stryker Sulak: 51%

Hmm.  That suggests that Coulter did more against the run than Sulak did...and that most of the successful plays J. Smith made came against the run.  That's at least a little comforting, right?

2. Who's winning the battle to start next to Jaron Baston?  No freaking idea whatsoever.  At least I'm honest, right?  Here's where it's bad that we're completely reliant on the practice reports of Dave Matter and Gabe Dearmond.  We haven't heard much of Terrell Resonno or Dominique Hamilton.  Monday's depth chart updates show that it's still Resonno in the lead, though neither have distinguished themselves.  Hamilton looked really good in the spring game, but that is, after all, just one scrimmage of many.

3. Is there a sleeper we haven't talked much about?  It appears about thirteen scholarships have been spent on the defense line at the moment, yet we've only talked about six guys.  Are any of the others posing serious threats for playing time or stardom?  Not really.  Marcus Malbrough was not practicing particularly well, but he had a nice Saturday scrimmage, lodging a TFL and a sack. At DT, it sounds like the biggest mover has been redshirt freshman Jimmy Burge, who has jumped ahead of both George White and Chris Earnhardt to second string.  It sounded like freshman Marvin Foster was making a threat for playing time before injuring his knee last week, so I'm thinking for the most part we're looking at a six-man line least as far as the playmakers go.  The winner of the Brad Madison/Malbrough battle will likely see the field, as will the winner of the Burge/Earnhardt/White battle, but I'm guessing that for 2009, at least, they won't be serious threats to make plays as much as eat space.  It's doubtful we'll hear too much about anyone beyond Smith/Coulter/Smith and Baston/Resonno/Hamilton.

2009 Mizzou Football Preview Series