We now move to the defensive side of the ball, where Mizzou is looking for quite a few #DLineZou candidates.
- 2014 Signees: Rocel McWilliams (RSFr.), Walter Brady (RSFr.), Spencer Williams (RSFr.)
- 2015 Signees: Marcell Frazier (So.), Nate Howard (Fr.), Josh Moore* (Fr.) (* - could end up at this position or another one)
- Known 2016 Offers: 16-18
- 2014 Signees: none
- 2015 Signees: Terry Beckner Jr. (Fr.), Tyrell Jacobs* (Fr.)
- Known 2016 Offers: 10-12
My own intuition and Missouri's offer lists are at odds when it comes Missouri's defensive line recruiting this year. Including Josh Moore as an end (and he could very well end up at tackle), I count eight scholarship defensive ends on Missouri's roster: three sophomores (Charles Harris, Marcus Loud, Frazier), three redshirt freshmen, and two true freshmen. If you simply keep these guys on the team, you've got enough ends for a fourth string through 2017. You don't necessarily know how good any of these guys are yet, but Missouri's staff doesn't usually overreact in that regard. They don't know how good their young receivers are either, but they're still not going after many WRs for their 2016 class.
Meanwhile, I'm counting seven scholarship defensive tackles: four juniors (Harold Brantley, Josh Augusta, Rickey Hatley, Evan Winston), a sophomore (A.J. Logan), and two freshmen. Brantley is a candidate for going pro after this year, and four of the seven names will be gone by end of 2016 at the latest.
I assumed heading into this recruiting cycle, then, that Mizzou might be trying to land zero to one ends and one to three tackles. Now look at the offer numbers here. Mizzou has offered almost 20 defensive ends (that we know about) and barely 10 tackles.
Part of this is the "aiming high" thing we've talked about in other posts -- at just about every position, Missouri tosses out offers to a large round of blue-chippers, hoping to find a couple who will end up taking visits in the fall or winter. And that's no different here, especially at defensive end, where Mizzou has had so much recent success (and has a lot to sell). Of the 17 or so ends I'm seeing offers for, 12 are listed as four-star prospects by either Rivals, the 247Sports Composite, or both. Meanwhile, six of the 12 or so offered tackles are in the same boat.
So maybe Mizzou is just trying to cash in some chips the recent successes at end have earned them. But some of the more recent offers are particularly interesting to me. Not only has Mizzou offered Rock Bridge end Tre Williams (unrated by Rivals, mid-three-star by 247), but the Tigers have also recently offered a couple of Kansas ends: Xavier Kelly (high-three-star via Rivals, four-star via 247) and Isaiahh Loudermilk (Rivals: unrated, 247: mid-three). They are actively pursuing quite a few ends; maybe it's just because they really like those guys, but it definitely seems like they're aiming for a two to three ends in this class to go with one or two tackles.
I guess this might make some sense for one simple reason: you can slap weight on an end and move him inside. Mizzou is likely doing it with Tyrell Jacobs and could quite possibly do it with Josh Moore, too. They've more or less done it with Rickey Hatley this year and could in theory do it with someone like Walter Brady (currently listed at 265 pounds) if they wanted to.
So maybe I'm overthinking this. Regardless, expect somewhere between probably three and four defensive linemen in this class ... no matter what position they end up at four years from now.
One final note: Missouri signed the No. 1 players in both Illinois and Kansas in the 2015 cycle, but that doesn't appear likely this time around. Both states' top players (via Rivals) -- Josh King of Darien (Ill.) and Amani Bledsoe of Lawrence (Kan.) are four-star defensive ends, and you would think that would work out pretty well for the school pushing #DLineZou. But to date, neither seem to be listing Missouri as leaders. There is plenty of time for that to change, but neither looks realistic at this point.
So who is realistic? Here are some names to follow:
DE Tre Williams (Columbia, MO) -- 6'5, 220, unrated (Rivals), *** (247)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (Howard, KS) -- 6'6, 255, unrated (Rivals), *** (247)
Loudermilk's film is immensely entertaining, just from a "monster athlete in small-school football doing nasty things to regular-sized kids" perspective.
DE KaDerrion Mason (McComb, MS) -- 6'5, 250, unrated (Rivals), *** (247)
DT Ross Blacklock (Missouri City, TX) -- 6'2, 280, *** (Rivals), *** (247)
DT Michael Perry III (Memphis, TN) -- 6'0, 327, *** (Rivals), *** (247)
And if you're aiming a little bit higher up the recruiting totem pole in terms of rankings or offer lists (or both)...
DE Xavier Kelly (Wichita, KS) -- 6'5, 250, *** (Rivals), **** (247)
DE Amani "Moose" Bledsoe (Lawrence, KS) -- 6'5, 265, **** (Rivals), **** (247)
DE Khalid Kareem (Farmington Hills, MI) -- 6'4, 240, **** (Rivals), **** (247)
DT Naquan Jones (Evanston, IL) -- 6'4, 286, **** (Rivals), *** (247)
DT Bravvion Roy (Spring, TX) -- 6'1, 285, *** (Rivals), *** (247)
And if you're looking for some names that might pop up over summer camp season, it bears mentioning that defensive ends account for three of the top 16 spots in Rivals' early Missouri rankings. Tre Williams (No. 16) is the only one with an offer, but Hazelwood West's James Jennette II ranks eighth and Columbia Battle's Jerrion Nelson ranks 10th. Rock Bridge's Hayden Johnson could also start scoring offers if he tests well. Meanwhile, Lee's Summit West tackle Marcel Minniefield (No. 13) is another interesting prospect. Here are some highlights for Jennette and Minniefield.
Oh yeah, and go ahead and get to know the name A.J. Epenesa. The Edwardsville (Ill.) product is a Class of 2017 guy who has offers from just about everybody already and is expected to be one of the top-ranked players in the class.