Missouri’s defense took a hit yesterday when news leaked that Harold Brantley and Walter Brady had been dismissed from the team.
Walter Brady appeared poised to have a standout sophomore year. He was a freshman All-American who notched seven sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and a forced fumble in 12 games last year. We still are not clear what “undisclosed team policies” were violated but I think it’s safe to assume he will not be reinstated.
Harold Brantley had to sit out the 2015 season while recovering from multiple rib and leg injuries sustained in a summer car accident and his return had been considered a long-shot. His recovery has been long and difficult and being ruled academically ineligible sounds like one several things he is dealing with.
I’ll always remember when I first became a fan of Brantley, it was on the fake punt against Ole Miss where he not only converted the fourth down - but also mocked the “landshark” defense. I genuinely hope for the best for Harold Brantley and that he recovers fully both emotionally and physically.
Defensive line is one of Mizzou’s deepest groups.
The Tigers return the fearsome pass rushing prowess of Charles Harris, who recorded 56 tackles, 18.5 for a loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles and who has spoken of breaking Shane Ray’s school record for sacks in a season (15).
That will be tougher to accomplish with the accolades and recognition Harris has received across the country, and it certainly won’t be made easier by the increased focus offenses will be able to place on him.
Missouri will ask Marcell Frazier and Nate Howard to be the next men up for “D Line Zou”. Frazier had 18 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble last in 12 games while Howard had twelve tackles, two for a loss in just nine games. Spencer Williams and freshman Tre Williams are also waiting in the wings.
Defensive schemes will be tested
Missouri’s changing defensive scheme will play a factor in off-setting the losses. Just the other day, SEC coaches were talking up Missouri’s defense,
“It’ll be interesting because Barry Odom has been an odd-front guy his whole career and they play a head-up nose and two guys in the B gaps and you’re just not running the ball against him. They’re simply not going to let you do it, and they’ll bring pressure different ways off that.
What’s funny, though, is he hired a defensive coordinator from TCU where they do it totally differently.
We have already heard Jackie Shipp talk about using ends like linebackers and we know Barry Odom has mentioned wanting to present multiple fronts and likes to bring pressure with linebackers. It’ll be up to DeMontie Cross to successfully integrate the philosophies and in fact I have a couple articles already prepared that will now need to be tweaked.
I think we’ll end up seeing more 3-4 fronts with Rickey Hatley, Josh Augusta and Terry Beckner as down lineman with Charles Harris standing up off the left tackle and Donavin Newsom opposite him. During the spring, Spencer Williams looked solid getting extensive reps while Charles Harris was recovering from shoulder surgery.
It’ll mean more opportunities for interior guys like Josh Moore and AJ Logan and I think it definitely means freshman Tre Williams will see the field this fall - after hearing good things about his development and seeing him in person I’m more confident he’s ready.
Missouri will also be able to use more linebackers in pass rushing situations. Terez Hall was pushing Donavin Newsom for starters reps during the spring while Brandon “The Crow” Lee, Eric “Zeus” Beisel, or Franklin “Smash” Agbasimere can all be options in various packages. I’ll be looking for the coaching staff to ramp up the aggressiveness rather than down.
This has some implications for Missouri on the recruiting trail. With the two departures, Missouri is sitting on 82 scholarships by my count, so while it’s possible they make a late addition to the roster I think they would have done so already. Since Rickey Hatley and Josh Augusta are set to graduate and Charles Harris is likely gone after this season that leaves Mizzou with just four defensive ends and five tackles for 2017. That puts more pressure on the staff to land impact freshman like Chester Graves out of Kansas City or Ben Hutch from Tennessee.
In his introductory press conference, Barry Odom said "I want to be proud of the product we put on the field. We're going to work the right way, represent this state and university the right way." Brantley and Brady were two high profile players with serious potential to impact this coming season and now they’re gone. As disappointing as this may seem from a football perspective, Odom is putting his stamp on the Missouri program with these decisions. He’s operating under interim management and it could have been easier to win football games if these issues were overlooked.
While it seems like the rest of the university is operating under a cloud of chaos and confusion, I think Odom is sending a clear message. He will not tolerate distractions or a lack of commitment. He wants to make Mizzou great and a program fans can be proud of once again.