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2015 Missouri football recruiting: Opportunities available at defensive end, safety

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Missouri is in the running for quite a few high-caliber defensive linemen who might be able to break into the rotation as newcomers in 2015.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we took a look at Missouri's returning offensive personnel and where the Tigers' depth chart could be most quickly affected by the 2015 recruiting class. Now let's do the same for defense. Granted, the biggest defensive question has nothing to do with recruiting and everything to do with who will be the new defensive coordinator, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Defensive End

  • Returning Starters: none
  • Other Returnees (3): Charles Harris (So.), Marcus Loud (So.), Rickey Hatley (Jr.)
  • Returning Redshirts (3): Rocel McWilliams (RSFr.), Spencer Williams (RSFr.), Walter Brady (RSFr.)
  • Commits: none

Mizzou's in a funny position with this recruiting class. The Tigers have no commitments on the defensive line, but if the dominos fall right, they could end up with one of the best DL recruiting classes in the country. Terry Beckner Jr. is still on the table, as are the Davis twins from Blue Springs. Plus, four-star longshots like Chicago's Raequan Williams and Dallas' Darrion Daniels aren't off the table just yet.

Regardless, there's no question that there's playing time available at end if someone experiences a pretty quick breakthrough. As David Morrison's most recent Snap Decisions post notes, only 31 percent of this year's snaps at DE went to players who will be back next season. (Yes, I'm assuming Shane Ray is gone. Pretty fair assumption, I'd say.) Harris, Loud, and Hatley all showed potential here and there, but the end position is going to go from dominant to decent next year. If Beckner signs and is able to make a quick impact, that would be fantastic.

(Also of note here: we're going to continue to talk about Barry Odom as Mizzou's potential new defensive coordinator until we hear otherwise, and he has crafted a pretty creative, aggressive 3-4 defense at Memphis. If he were hired, that might change how we look at the roles of the ends, tackles, and OLBs.)

Defensive Tackle

  • Returning Starter (1): Harold Brantley (Jr.)
  • Other Returnees (3): Josh Augusta (Jr.), Evan Winston (Jr.), A.J. Logan (So.)
  • Returning Redshirts: none
  • Commits: none

Again, the Davis twins and others could fill in the depth chart here, and if need be, Hatley or even Loud could probably earn some snaps at tackle in 2015. But barring injury, the starters are obvious and fantastic. Brantley and Augusta should make for a hell of a pair, though a 2015 signee might be able to break onto the second string.

Linebacker

  • Returning Starters (3): Kentrell Brothers (Sr.), Michael Scherer (Jr.), Donavin Newsom (Jr.)
  • Other Returnees (3): Clarence Green (Sr.), Eric Beisel (So.), Joey Burkett (So.)
  • Returning Redshirts (3): Brandon Lee (RSFr.), Grant Jones (RSFr.), Roderick Winters (RSFr.)
  • Commits: none

It appears Mizzou is trying to sign at least one linebacker in this class, but the totem pole is pretty tall. Everybody but Darvin Ruise returns in 2015, which means there's a pretty well-defined first-, second-, and third-string already in place. (And yes, I'm keeping Eric Beisel on the list here no matter how much I want him to move to defensive end. That's my own personal problem.)

Cornerback

  • Returning Starters (2): Kenya Dennis (Sr.), Aarion Penton (Jr.)
  • Other Returnees (3): John Gibson (Jr.), David Johnson (Sr.), Logan Cheadle (So.)
  • Returning Redshirts (2): Raymond Wingo (RSFr.), Finis Stribling IV (RSFr.)
  • Commits (~2): Cam Hilton (Fr.), Ronnell Perkins (Fr.)

Mizzou still has some offers out to defensive backs, and commits like Cam Hilton and Ronnell Perkins, not to mention four-star Kansas City athlete Marquise Doherty, could all end up here as well. Regardless, as with linebacker, there's a long row to hoe for an incoming signee. Mizzou returns all five of this year's CBs, plus two pretty exciting redshirts.

Safety

  • Returning Starter (1): Ian Simon (Sr.)
  • Other Returnees (5): Cortland Browning (Sr.), Thomas Wilson (So.), Anthony Sherrils (So.), Chaston Ward (Jr.), Shaun Rupert (So.)
  • Returning Redshirts (1): Tavon Ross (RSFr.)
  • Commits (~1): T.J. Warren (Fr.)

There's a bit more uncertainty at safety with the loss of both Braylon Webb and Duron Singleton. Ian Simon is back for his 16th year in Columbia, and there are some exciting youngsters -- Thomas Wilson showed some flashes of aggressiveness and athleticism, Anthony Sherrils was this year's Kentrell Brothers Award winner for best-looking special teams tackler (Newsom won it last year and parlayed that into a 2014 starting gig), and I've camped out in the front car of the Tavon Ross bandwagon for more than a year now. Still, if T.J. Warren (whose highlight film is as exciting as anyone's in the class) or a Doherty/Hilton/Perkins has a great summer and fall, the rotation could conceivably be cracked.

Kicker/Punter

  • Returning Starter (1): Andrew Baggett (Sr.)
  • Other Returnees (1): Nick Coffman (Jr., walk-on)
  • Returning Redshirts:
  • Commits (1): Corey Fatony (Fr.)

For the first time in quite a while, Mizzou offered a scholarship to a high school kicker. Corey Fatony certainly looks the part, but while I believe he's known more for his place-kicking abilities, there's an opening at punter. Andrew Baggett's been the backup punter for a couple of seasons, so one assumes he's gotten plenty of practice reps, but I guess we shouldn't be completely surprised if Fatony is able to win that job even if it's not his specialty.