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Missouri Football spring preview: Charles Harris heads an embarrassment of riches at DE

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We're taking a look at the Tigers' depth chart and how the incoming recruits fit in. Next up: defensive ends.

Derrick Forsythe / Rock M Nation

Defensive Ends

Seniors Juniors Sophomores Freshman Class of 2016
Marcell Frazier (R) 6'4 245 Walter Brady (R) 6'3 255 Tre Williams 6'5 220
Charles Harris (R) 6'3 255 Nate Howard 6'5 220
Rocel McWilliams (R) 6'2 240
Spencer Williams (R) 6'3 245
Gone:

None

Returning Starters:

Charles Harris (56 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 7 sacks, 1 PD, 2 FF), Walter Brady (39 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 7 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FR, 1 FF), Marcell Frazier (18 tackles, 6 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 FF)

Others Returning:

Nate Howard, Rocel McWilliams, Spencer Williams

Newcomers:

Tre Williams, Early Enrollees: None

Recap: Mizzou returns every one of its defensive ends, including second-team All-SEC performer Charles Harris. Harris displayed a commitment toward becoming stronger while becoming a technically sound pass rusher last year, and he embraced a leadership role for one of the best defenses in the country. Marcell Frazier had a fairly quiet 2015 playing behind Freshman All-American Walter Brady but showed occasional bursts. And as a freshman, Nate Howard looked like a slightly larger version of Charles Harris in his backup role.

Predictions: Charles Harris and Walter Brady listed as starters with Marcell Frazier and Nate Howard getting heavy rotation. Depending on how well "Rock" McWilliams and Spencer Williams improve, they could clean up some games. Tre Williams to redshirt.

What to Watch: Harris is a potential NFL Draft pick after this year. Look for Mizzou to feature him even more this fall, as both an edge linebacker and traditional defensive end. Brady was a Freshman All-American last year after only joining the team in January, but can he improve on that? Marcell Frazier said he chose Mizzou because it would fast-track his path to the NFL, so his development will also be something to track. Nate Howard had flashes of potential last year in limited snaps as a true freshman, jumping ahead of several players who had a year's head start.

How does that depth play out this year? Does Tre Williams come in and wow coaches as a freshman? Can Mizzou afford to develop him for a year?

Dan Keegan: You want a prediction? Let’s do it. Go big or go home, y’know? Charles Harris, 2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. As superstardom arrives for Harris, though, Walter Brady should not be overlooked on the other side. Here’s a player side by side comparison:


Sacks

Tackles

Solo

For Loss

INT

PBU

FF

FR

Player A

7.0

39

20

11.5

1

1

1

1

Player B

2.0

54

25

9.0

1

1

4

0

Player A's line is the fine freshman campaign Walter Brady just submitted. Player B is eventual NFL draft picks Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Markus Golden, and Shane Ray as freshmen combined. Do I have to be reserved and rational about Season 2 of another great set of Mizzou bookend rushers? Why should I be rational? Just look at those numbers and drool.

Don’t @ me.

Missouri’s 2016 defensive line is an embarrassment of riches. A program so known for quality line 4-3 lines that it has its own hashtag enters the season with maybe its best and deepest group yet. But, some long-term questions linger, notably revolving around the departure of Craig Kuligowski and the potential shift to Barry Odom’s preferred 3-4 defense.

Missouri fans will glean more about the long-term future of the defensive front through recruiting and interviews; in the meantime, Jackie Shipp will enjoy a combination of depth and flexibility that surpasses even that of the 2013 team. If Shipp has any funky formations he wants to try, this is the season to try them out. In the long term, Odom will attempt to install the schematic and recruiting framework to match Kuligowski’s developmental success, but Missouri will miss Coach Kool’s ability to basically invent superstar players.

Bill C.: It feels poetic that the first year with Gary Pinkel's successor will be led by two of Pinkel's most Pinkel recruits. Harris was the greatest Signing Day story ever -- we all thought Mizzou was done for the day, then a fax came in from a player nobody (not even recruiting guys) had heard of. He was a zero-star recruit at that moment. Meanwhile, Brady had visited Mizzou and Middle Tennessee and was a solid two-star. They combined for 31 tackles for loss last year.

Aside from simply trying to observe how many different ways Mizzou tries to utilize Harris, my curiosity is, as always, mostly with the younger players. How much further can Brady improve? Do Howard, Williams, or McWilliams take a huge step forward in their development? And hell, Frazier's still only a junior and made a few lovely, intuitive plays last fall. Might he give Brady a run for his money in the starting lineup?