With what the defense was missing up front (Charles Harris, Terry Beckner Jr., Harold Brantley, Nate Howard, plus Walter Brady after a second quarter injury), you could forgive the unit if it maybe got beat here or there in the spring game. But the breakdowns that did exist appeared to come from the secondary.
The defensive line still held up just fine (granted, against the Mizzou offensive line), and even with the bombs and injuries, the offense still averaged only 4.6 yards per play over 66 snaps (if you remove the two bombed snaps, which had nothing to do with the defense). I'm still confident that this is going to be one hell of a unit ... even if I'm still unsure of who mans the cornerback position opposite Aarion Penton.
Marcell Frazier and Rickey Hatley were everywhere.
I swear, I heard Rickey Hatley's name on about three of the first five snaps of the day. He finished with two solo tackles, both for loss (one sack), and I'm pretty sure they both came on the first two drives. Frazier, meanwhile, tracked plays well to the sideline and finished with two solos and two assists. His speed is a major plus. Rocel McWilliams recorded the other sack.
Plus, early word on Brady's injury is positive.
Odom said that trainer Rex Sharp said the initial evaluation of Walter Brady's knee looked "pretty good." He was walking with a brace after.— Joe Walljasper (@JoeWalljasper) April 17, 2016
He crumpled to the ground on a play near the goal line in the second quarter, and it didn't look particularly good, but good news is possible there.
Even if you exclude Brantley because of the uncertainty surrounding both his health and his grades, if everyone else is healthy and ready in September, this really should be one of the best lines in the SEC. Depth, speed, strength ... Gary Pinkel and Craig Kuligowski left this team one hell of a parting gift.
Lots of defenders close to the line of scrimmage.
Cam Hilton's only tackle came five yards behind the line. Michael Scherer made two tackles for loss (and, naturally, led the team in tackles). Line penetration strung quite a few runs wider than they should preferably go. Because of both tactics and line play, Mizzou defenders were in the backfield a lot. The Havoc Rate (TFLs + passes defensed + forced fumbles) for 66 snaps was a decent 18 percent, close to Mizzou's average last year. And again, that was with attrition and rotation.
The downside, of course, to having a ton of pursuit near the line is that you might get burned deep. Mizzou did once.
John Gibson got burned deep.
I mean, J'Mon Moore roasted Gibson on that long TD. And Cam Hilton was about 30 yards behind in backing him up deep. Technically that could have been miscommunication and could have been on Hilton instead of Gibson ... but I really don't think so. It didn't look like Gibson was letting Moore go by, thinking he had safety help. It looked like he tried to press Moore and missed.
Mizzou enters 2016 with two stalwarts in the secondary -- Penton and Anthony Sherrils -- and two mysteries. The list of candidates for the other two starting spots is solid; you could do worse than Gibson vs. Logan Cheadle (or Anthony Hines) at corner, and you could do worse than Thomas Wilson vs. Hilton (and whoever else). (Wilson seemed to have a strong day, by the way.) But to some degree, one play served as a reminder of the unknowns at both of those spots. This will probably work out fine, but there's no guarantee.
The kicking game appears to be in good hands.
Presumptive starting kicker Tucker McCann got one kickoff attempt and nearly bombed it to the track. Corey Fatony's punts were high, deep, and gorgeous. It's a fool's errand to gauge anything about special teams from a spring game that doesn't even allow returns, but it confirmed what we remembered about Fatony, and it suggested that opponents aren't going to get many returns when Mizzou is kicking off this year. We'll see how good McCann is at making kicks in game situations in September, but his leg appears to be as strong as advertised.