Brains and brawn drive Missouri defensive tackle Harold Brantley

08/24/2014 4:34 PM

08/24/2014 4:34 PM

Missouri’s Harold Brantley is fascinated by the brain.

Brantley, a sophomore defensive tackle, chose to major in psychology based on that interest.

“I just love how the brain works and trying to figure out human behavior,” said Brantley, a native of Hershey, Pa. “Also, I want to go into the counseling field, trying to help other athletes in my position to get through it.”

He said there is no mystery, at least physiologically, to what drives him or any other defensive lineman.

“It’s all amygdala, fight or flight,” Brantley said. “Either you come out low and take on a 600-pound double team, or you’re going on your back.”

Brantley appeared in all 14 games last season as a redshirt freshman and finished with 30 tackles, including five for a loss — tied for the most among Missouri’s interior linemen.

He had a terrific season by any measure, especially down the stretch.

“It’s funny because, around about the eighth game of the season, I feel like something just clicked in my head,” Brantley said. “I really learned to use my technique and staying low to my advantage. Now, watching film of the beginning of the season, it looked like I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Despite a terrific season and despite being one of Missouri’s most important and impressive young linemen, Brantley sat fourth on the depth chart at nose guard entering fall training camp.

One explanation is the weight he lost during the spring.

“I don’t know what it was, some type of virus, but I ended up losing like 20 or 25 pounds,” Brantley said. “Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier for me to lose weight than to gain it, but I’m back up to almost 280. I hope by the season I can be around 290.”

Of course, there’s another reason that has yet to be fully explained for Brantley’s depth-chart dip.

“He was down with the threes for other reasons,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

Brantley explained that the Tigers’ staff wanted to light a fire under him — a ploy that piques his interest as a psychology major. He said he’s OK with the motivational tactic.

“I was surprised at first, but once they explained to me they wanted me to keep working and get my weight back up, increase a couple PRs and things like that before working with the twos again, I was OK with it,” Brantley said.

Odds are good he will be back with the second string when the season begins with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.

“He’s doing a good job in camp so far, he really is,” Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “If he keeps going, hopefully he’ll be playing a lot.”

Brantley also has enough speed to play defensive end, which he showed on a 26-yard run on a punt fake against Mississippi last season.

He said he’s comfortable playing anywhere on the defensive line, but prefers to be inside “just because I’m in the middle of everything and it’s a little bit harder for them to go away from me,” he said.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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