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Missouri's defense should be pretty good in 2015, but it will look very different

Here are today's Mizzou links.

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Mizzou Tigers pennant What's On

Clips from last year's Fan Appreciation Day at Faurot Field. Mizzou has set August 9 as the date for this year's festivities.

Mizzou Tigers pennant Camp is ... next week??? CAMP IS NEXT WEEK

Running backs
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou Camp Glance: Tailback depth in focus
Post-Dispatch: Tigers need tailback depth behind Hansbrough

Whether or not Steward can handle much of a workload, the Tigers have a veteran back in Hansbrough, though he’s never been cast as a prototypical workhorse. Last year, Hansbrough averaged 14.6 carries per game. He carried the ball 13 or fewer times in six games; he carried it more than 17 times in just five games, and only once on consecutive weeks, against South Dakota State and Toledo.

Can Witter become what departed senior Murphy was last year, a potent second option? Murphy started a handful of games last year and outrushed Hansbrough in half of MU’s 14 games. For the season, Murphy’s 924 rushing yards were the most ever for a Missouri running back who wasn’t the team’s top rushing running back.

Offensive line
PowerMizzou: Camp Preview: OL

Defensive line

The Tigers have not had a defensive end start in the past decade without at least being involved in the D-Line rotation the year prior. That’s exactly what will take place this season, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. I’m not saying they can’t be good, it’s just difficult to project exactly what "good" will look like. Would that be six sacks for Missouri’s starting left end? Or 12? Because that’s obviously a massive difference.

PowerMizzou (Gabe Dearmond): Finding a Way

As Gary Pinkel enters his 15th season as Missouri's head coach, he's going to have to find a new way to win this year. The last two seasons, Missouri has used a similar formula to win the SEC East. The Tigers pressured the quarterback relentlessly, moving opposing offenses in the wrong direction. Over the last two seasons, Mizzou had 85 sacks and 212 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, accounting for 861 yards lost. They did it with four NFL draft picks at defensive end, including back-to-back SEC Defensive Players of the year, leaning on a line that was so dominant they didn't have to blitz nearly as much as their opponents. [...]

Charles Harris will start at one defensive end. Marcus Loud would have started at the other, but got booted from the team this spring. Walter Brady is currently listed as the starter on that side. He is backed up by walk-on Justin Grava. Harris is backed by Spencer Williams and Rocel McWilliams. None of those four players has ever made a tackle. Grava is the only one to have appeared in a game, playing in one contest last year. He is listed as an offensive lineman on Missouri's official roster.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit, and I agree with Gabe's sentiment. If you list out your guess for the top 10 players on this year's defense, a) the overall level of talent and play-making ability is still really high, and b) very few of the players on that list will be defensive linemen. Barry Odom proved at Memphis that he is a creative guy, perhaps more purely creative than Dave Steckel. (He's also far less experienced than Stec, of course.) This might be a good year for him to have to take over, as creativity will be key to Mizzou's defensive success. Mizzou will be able to swarm to the ball well, and the pass defense should be awesome with a simply competent pass rush ... but it's going to be a different recipe, for better or worse.

Special teams
The Trib (David Morrison): FALL CAMP ROLL CALL: Special Teams

Gibson's definitely going to be part of the rotation at cornerback, but he's also the pretty clear third guy behind Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis. That, plus the fact that he's got a track background and experience returning kicks -- he ran a punt and a kickoff back for scores as a senior in high school -- make him a pretty good candidate.

Ditto for Wingo, who has 4.3-second 40-yard dash speed (according to multiple accounts of offseason testing), won the 2013 state championship in his class in the 100 meters at SLUH and had experience returning kicks in the prep ranks as well. Plus, he's probably not going to be a starting receiver (but with this group...who knows?).

Mizzou Tigers pennant ICYMI: Tobias Little - Tigers land Georgia linebacker

Georgia linebacker commits to Mizzou : Sports

Mizzou Tigers pennant #StubbleOnTurfCrew