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Missouri Football Spring Preview: If healthy, Tiger defensive tackles could be the SEC's best

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Spring Practice begins March 8th. The spring preview series continues with a look at the defensive tackles.

Josh Augusta is hungry
Josh Augusta is hungry
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Tackles

Seniors Juniors Sophomores Freshman Class of 2016
Harold Brantley (R) 6'3 280 A.J. Logan (R) 6'2 300 Terry Beckner Jr. 6'4 298 Tyrell Jacobs (R) 6'4 260 Markell Utsey 6'4 290
Josh Augusta 6'4 335 Josh Moore 6'5 250
Rickey Hatley (R) 6'4 285
Gone:

None

Returning Starters:

Josh Augusta (27 tackles, 8.5 TFLS, 3 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FR) , Rickey Hatley (27 tackles, 6 TFLs), A.J. Logan (21 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 FF), Terry Beckner Jr.(†) (27 tackles, 8 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FR)

Other Returning:

Josh Moore, Tyrell Jacobs

Newcomers:

Markell Utsey, Early Enrollees: None

Recap: Mizzou returns every member of #DLineZou except the position coach that made it famous. Josh Augusta was a force at nose tackle, giving Mizzou defense flexibility in scheme even though he still struggled with being an every down contributor. Terry Beckner Jr. suffered a knee injury in Mizzou’s win over BYU but delivered on blue chip promise with a freshman All-American season. Rickey Hatley continues to be a plus contributor who stepped up when asked and has the frame to play both tackle and end. He could play his way into an NFL contract with another solid year. AJ Logan struggled with strength at the point of attack in games last year and remains an average athlete compared to his peers.

Predictions: Augusta and Hatley listed as starters while Beckner works his way into healthy shape and becomes at least a co-starter. Josh Moore challenges AJ Logan for playing time as the primary backup as long as he maintains all the athleticism he's shown despite jumping up to 280 pounds. Tyrell Jacobs could, too, depending on how much weight he can put on. Markell Utsey to redshirt.

What to Watch: New coach Jackie Shipp has the unenviable job of replacing one of the best defensive line coaches in the country in the departed Craig Kuligowski. Shipp has had success in numerous stops, but there will be an expectation of excellence from Missouri's defensive line. Luckily, he’ll have one of the youngest and most talented squads in recent memory, although there will be concerns about depth and health. Augusta may finally turn into the 2-gapping nose tackle we’ve all suspected he’s capable of becoming.

Brantley and Beckner returning healthy would mean Mizzou could have one of the best defensive lines in the SEC. It will be important to keep an eye on the growth of Logan, Moore and Jacobs because the unit looks to lose a lot after this year. On the plus side, Shipp will be able to sell recruits on early playing time.

Dan Keegan: Missouri’s defensive tackle rotation is remarkable on paper. If Josh Augusta continues his yearly incremental improvement, and Harold Brantley and Terry Beckner Jr. can regain or build on their pre-injury forms, Mizzou will be dominant on the inside. My prediction is: crying, lots and lots of crying. Tears of joy from Mizzou fans -- at least from those of us who are moved to strong emotions from interior line play -- and tears of pain from opposing quarterbacks.

The theme of this position is Stardom Delayed. Josh Augusta’s cartoonish blend of size and athleticism is reminiscent of players who end their footballing careers in Canton; as a senior, his production on the field might finally reach the lofty levels Mizzou fans have daydreamed about since he first rumbled onto campus.

Harold Brantley spent his first two seasons growing into a dominant force; he absolutely owned November 2014 and was primed for a breakout 2015. Brantley’s interior rush dismantled many passing pockets, creating sack opportunities for himself and his teammates. We all know how he missed the 2015 season following a car wreck over the summer; how his career progresses following those injuries is a major unknown.

Lastly, all-everything blue chipper Terry Beckner, Jr was rounding into dominant form before a late-season ACL injury; his 2016 expectations have been tempered due to the setback, but his future still looks bright. Should all three players find their dominant selves in 2016, Mizzou will trot out one of the best lines in the sport.

Bill C.: For me, as far as the tackle unit is concerned, this spring is about Moore and Jacobs. Obviously we'll be looking for incremental improvement from Augusta, and we'll be foraging for whatever updates we can find on Brantley and Beckner. But in those players' respective absences, Moore especially will likely be logging major reps with the first team. That's a great opportunity for him/them, and I'm excited to see how they respond because while we know what this unit could be like with everyone healthy, we don't know that everyone will be healthy.