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At least one sophomore DE will need to step up for Missouri

Mizzou needs either Nate Howard, Josh Moore, or Spencer Williams to become a decent play-maker in 2016. All three would be fine, too.

Nate Howard Derrick Forsythe (Rock M Nation)

Nate Howard

6’4, 235, So.

St. Louis, MO
2015: 8.5 tackles, 2 TFL

davidcmorrison: Howard rode a wave of momentum from an exceptional fall camp and the most fevered dreams of his coaches (big? Fast? DREADLOCKS?! MARKUS GOLDEN AND SHANE RAY SLAMMED INTO ONE BODY?!?!?) into avoiding a redshirt and playing himself into the rotation right away.

Then Spencer Williams up and took his spot halfway into the season: Howard played 12.5 snaps a game over the first 6 games and 4.8 over the last six.

Howard showed the promise and peril in equal measure last year, streaking into the backfield guns-a-blazing one play to blow it up and then losing contain and leaving the back two levels to fend for themselves on another.

“Marcell Frazier’s backup” is a much more lucrative job than “Charles Harris’ backup” when it comes to playing time. Howard will be in the mix for both, and his consistency may well determine which he is.

Oscar Gamble: I’m a huge fan of Nate Howard and you should be too. He’s got the build and the quickness to be a successful pass rusher, and if he’s a bit too aggressive that’s better than the alternative. I see Howard as number three in the rotation with great potential for the future.

Also, David appears to have drank his coffee while writing about the defensive ends.

Bill C.: Like freshmen tend to do, Howard certainly started to fade away as the season unfolded. But an offseason in the weight room (I was hoping he’d be listed higher than 235 this year, and maybe he is indeed bigger than that) and, simply, a full season to prepare mentally can’t be a bad thing. The potential was obvious, but as with Justin Smith, Markus Golden, and others, sometimes harnessing the desire to attack at full speed at all times takes a while.

Josh Moore

6’5, 260, So.

Olathe, KS
2015: 6.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Oscar Gamble: Josh Moore has loads and loads of athleticism, playing tight end and defensive line in high school. And despite weight close to 280 pounds last year, he was posting videos of him dunking at Mizzou’s Rec Center. He’s also a 20-year-old cancer survivor who seems to be very conscious of the opportunities Mizzou and football offer him. I’m rooting for him purely for that reason.

He saw the field a little as a defensive tackle in 2015, but this year he’s shed some bad weight and moved over to defensive end. I’m a fan of the transition both because I think the role suits him better and because it reflects some of the defensive scheme changes we may see from Missouri’s defense in the next few years under Odom.

davidcmorrison: At tackle, he was a Harold Brantley type that always played above his weight and had trouble keeping it on.

At end, he can be a very valuable third or fourth (or maybe even second?) option with his long frame and playing at a more natural size so he can be more quick and fluid in his movements. And, really, do what’s more natural for him, which is attack the quarterback.

Plus, it’s a simple numbers game. Missouri needs Moore more (ooooh, delightful!) at end to replace a Freshman All-American than it does at tackle to replace a player who, while he showed great promise over his first two seasons, did not play last year.

Missouri burned Moore’s redshirt for 9 snaps a game on a loaded defensive line last year. How much more progression he gained from that over sitting out a year will determine, in retrospect, whether that was a good decision or not.

Bill C.: That Mizzou didn’t need to tear the redshirts off of Howard and Moore but did anyway tells me a lot about the potential the previous staff saw. And, well, Odom was a part of that staff. As long as one of the two becomes a reliable contributor, Mizzou should be in solid shape at end. But I wouldn’t complain if both did.

Spencer Williams

6’3, 245, So.

Jacksonville, FL
2015: 1.5 tackles

davidcmorrison: Williams has escaped the “which one is he and which one is Rocel McWilliams?” quagmire for two reasons. One, he actually saw some playing time last year. Two, McWilliams isn’t on the team anymore.

Williams saw about 5 snaps a game last year. At his best, he was solid. At his worst, anonymous. Harris has enough playmaking potential to fill about two of three defensive end groups his dang self. Coaches need to surround him with stability, and Williams has a chance to offer that.

Oscar Gamble: Nothing really stood out to me about Spencer Williams last year, but if David says he played last year I’ll have to believe him. Also, talking about out of the frying pan into the fryer — Williams went from being confused with McWilliams to competing against a four-star freshman named Williams.

Bill C.: Williams seems a lot like Marcell Frazier, a read-and-react type instead of a “CHAAAAAAAARRRRGE!!” guy. Of course, sometimes that’s a sign of smarts, and sometimes that’s a sign that a guy doesn’t have enough play-making ability. Williams has to prove it’s more former than latter.