Northwest Missouri State coach Adam Dorrel wanted Harold Brantley to join his program. Who wouldn’t?
Brantley received honorable mention on the All-Southeastern Conference team as a Missouri defensive tackle in 2014 before suffering severe injuries in an automobile accident. At that point, Brantley, who broke his tibia, several ribs, and had a shoulder blade and knee ligament damage, just looked to regain his health.
That happened, but Brantley’s academics slipped and he was dismissed from the team.
Brantley looked for another opportunity, and Dorrel has contacts at Missouri.
The comeback attempt would begin at Northwest Missouri, the Division II football powerhouse in Maryville, but only after certain conditions were met.
“Nobody is bigger than our program,” Dorrel said. “I feel very strongly about that. We’re blue-collar, unselfish, we pull for one and another.”
Only when Dorrel believed Brantley would buy into the program did he agree to the transfer.
“I told him that he could help us and we could help him,” Dorrel said.
Top-ranked Northwest Missouri is the defending Division II champion and has won five NCAA championships since 1998. Transfers haven’t been a big part of the success.
“We don’t take a lot of transfers, whether they’re junior college or drop downs (from Division I),” Dorrel said. “When we do, our track record is very good. We do our homework, talk to a lot of people.
“And when someone gets here, the slate is clean. Everybody is held to the same level of expectations and accountability.”
Brantley saw his first action in the Bearcats’ victory at Missouri Southern last week, playing about 25 snaps and making three tackles.
“He looked OK,” Dorrel said. “We’ve been cautioning people in the fan and media world that think we’re getting an All-SEC player. But that’s not who he is right now. We have to be patient, and he needs to be patient.
“Drop downs might think they should get a sack on every play. That’s not how it works.”
The Bearcats have a solid defensive line — they’re in good shape about everywhere with a 5-0 record headed into Saturday’s game against Central Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is 5 p.m.
Plus, Brantley is playing with much less weight than he did at Missouri, where he was listed at 290 pounds in 2014. Brantley dropped nearly 100 pounds after the accident and is playing now at 248.
“He’s making progress,” Dorrel said.
Game of the week
No. 3 Louisville at No. 5 Clemson (7 p.m. Saturday on ABC)
A monster game that matches last year’s national runner-up playing host to this season’s biggest upstart. Who’d have thought in the preseason that the quarterback advantage for this game would fall on Louisville’s side? Lamar Jackson has accounted for 25 touchdowns, and the Cardinals’ offense is averaging 63.5 points, 682 total yards and 9.03 yards per play. Louisville has torched Florida State, but that was at home. Clemson and its quarterback, Deshaun Watson, have Atlantic Coast Conference and national title hopes of their own. The Tigers are third nationally in total defense (218.5 yards) and scoring defense (11.0).
No. 25 Georgia over No. 11 Tennessee (2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS)
What have you done for me lately? The Bulldogs were blown out by Mississippi, and the Volunteers scored an emotional comeback triumph over Florida. Focus won’t be an issue for Georgia, it might be for Tennessee. Plus it’s a payback game for the Bulldogs, who blew a three-touchdown lead in Knoxville last season.
Others to watch
No. 7 Stanford at No. 10 Washington (8 p.m. Friday on ESPN)
The Pac-12 championship game, perhaps. Is Washington ready for the moment? The Huskies blew out their first three opponents, then struggled with Arizona, and Stanford is in a different category. Still, this is the type of game Washington has longed to play for several years. Stanford is the conference standard and snatched a victory from defeat last weekend at UCLA. Christian McCaffrey will test Washington’s defensive speed, and the Huskies’ hopes ride on the shoulders of quarterback Jake Browning.
No. 8 Wisconsin at No. 4 Michigan (2:30 p.m. on ABC)
The Badgers’ accomplishments stand with anybody’s. Beating LSU at Green Bay and last week’s dominant performance at Michigan State have hopes soaring in Madison. Wisconsin’s getting it done with a disciplined and relentless defense, and it faces a major challenge in Michigan, which averages 468 yards per game. The Wolverines have lost 11 straight to top-10 teams.