Preseason All-SEC 2nd team, Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Award watch list-nominated defensive end Charles Harris was among the trio of Missouri Tigers in attendance at SEC Media Days last week. Their appearance was overshadowed by Mack Rhoades' departure, but Harris wasn't leaving without calling his shot.
"I already told him," Harris told reporters. "Shane Ray, I’m going to put him in hot water this year. The record is 14.5. I’ve got to get to 15."
Q. You've been around an awful lot of great defensive ends. Does Charles Harris bring something that maybe one of those other guys -- you've seen in them when you were coaching with them?
COACH ODOM: Yeah. The thing that -- University of Missouri has got a long run of great defensive linemen, and it started with Justin Smith back he and I were teammates, and then Larry Smith coached him and then moved into Coach Pinkel, and every year it kind of continues to progress.
And Charles is one of the next great ones, in my opinion. If you come and watch us practice on Tuesday afternoon, it looks like it's game day and it's fourth and one. I think that sets him apart. He's got an inner drive and demeanor that he wants to be the best.
"It's amazing, and nothing I would have thought about three years ago," Harris said. "It's definitely a blessing and an honor, but I have to be smart about when to go and when not to go. The (NFL) is always going to be there. ... I feel like I'm going to be the best to ever do it. So why not go first (round)? Why wouldn't I be first (round)?"
Where he needs to improve:
Harris has a tendency to play a little too high and narrow at times. He's able to get away with it at the college level because of his pure strength and athleticism. However, NFL offensive tackles will uproot him and handle him if he doesn't lower his pad level. This is something that can be fixed easily, and I don't envision it being a problem in the long run. The only other area I would like to see improvement is in his flexibility and fluidity. He isn't a bendy, loose athlete, and that shows up when he plays in space. If he's going to be a 3-4 OLB at the next level, that is something he'll need to work on.
Just after the NFL Draft and before the national media jumped on his bandwagon, I wrote that Charles Harris would need a Shaq Lawson-like season to secure himself a first-round selection. A 15-sack season would go a long way toward that. If Harris is up for it, I feel like we're going to get a lot of mileage out of this vine:
Probably gonna get a lot of mileage out of this vine https://t.co/6bmjlVM3xu— ᴏsᴄᴀʀ ɢᴀᴍʙʟᴇ (@OscarGambler) July 14, 2016
Harold Brantley on track...
Two other pieces of news came out of Hoover on Wednesday. I wanted to make sure they weren't missed in the wash of Mack Rhoades news.
Barry Odom: Harold Brantley recovering well, around 270 lbs— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) July 13, 2016
"He’s made a lot of progress, a tremendous amount from the times we talked in the spring until now," Missouri coach Barry Odom said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days. "Weight-wise he’s up around the 270 mark. When he got out of the hospital (last summer) he was down around 200. He’s made a lot of progress. It’s day to day for him getting back and re-teaching himself how to run and change direction. He had a significant number of surgeries that’s taken time to get over."
To hear that he's up around 270 pounds, only around 20 pounds below his previously listed playing weight, is encouraging news for both Brantley and Missouri's defense. I guarantee defensive line coach Jackie Shipp is enthusiastic about the prospect of having another guy in the rotation behind Josh Augusta, Rickey Hatley and freshman All-American Terry Beckner.
...Nate Crawford, not so much
Missouri's line depth remains a concern with word that Nate Crawford, the most experienced returning starter, is not on track to start against West Virginia.
Odom laid out no timeline for Crawford's return, but the recovery from that 2nd back surgery has been a slow process.— Blake Toppmeyer (@btoppmeyer) July 13, 2016
That exception is guard Nate Crawford, MU’s lone returning offensive line starter who had his second back surgery during the spring.
"Everybody besides Nate is back and working out every day, running and lifting," said Odom, who didn’t sound overly optimistic that Crawford would be available for Missouri’s Sept. 3 season opener at West Virginia. "Nate has not made quite the progress that we were hoping at this point. He still has a ways to go. … Two months ago, I felt really good. A month ago, I felt really good about it. Not as much now. The progress is still coming."
The offensive line, which was Missouri's biggest weakness last year, could certainly use Crawford at either at left guard or at right tackle, both positions he handled relatively well when healthy. If you followed my reporting through the spring, you'll know I had my doubts about his ability to play after a second back surgery.
Crawford is a redshirt junior so he still has two years to play but as it looks right now he may need to use 2016 to completely recover. Look for JUCO transfer Kyle Mitchell, redshirt freshman AJ Harris or incoming freshman Tre'Vour Simms to get reps at left guard during the fall.