So, the look of this unit changed substantially Wednesday with the news that sophomore defensive end Walter Brady had been dismissed from the team.
He and junior Charles Harris tied for the Missouri team lead with seven sacks last season and projected as one of the most formidable defensive end pairings in the Southeastern Conference for 2016.
’Tis no more, but the Tigers remain fairly well stacked at the position.
We take a closer look in The Star’s ongoing camp preview ahead of Mizzou’s first fall practice Thursday in Columbia:
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Returning starters: Charles Harris, junior.
Other returning contributors: Marcell Frazier, junior; Nate Howard, sophomore; Spencer Williams, sophomore.
Newcomers: Tre Williams, freshman.
Projected 2016 starters: Brady and Harris.
Outlook: Harris, a Lincoln Prep grad from Kansas City, is a beast. He’s been picked as a second-team preseason All-American by Sports Illustrated and a third-team preseason All-American by Phil Steele. Harris led all Tigers defensive linemen and finished sixth on the team last season with 56 tackles, including 18 1/2 for a loss. Those TFL numbers were good enough for second in the SEC and tied for 16th in the nation during his first full season as a starter. Despite offseason surgery on both shoulders, Harris is primed for a monster season and could find himself as a first-round pick on NFL mock draft boards by the spring.
The loss of Brady hurts, but Harris’ presence softens that blow as does Mizzou’s depth at the position. Redshirt junior Marcell Frazier played well in stretches as a backup last season and seems poised for the first crack at replacing Brady. He finished with 18 tackles, including six for a loss with two sacks, last season — his first with the Tigers. Beyond that, Missouri has sophomores Nate Howard (12 tackles, two TFL) and Spencer Williams (two tackles) in the rotation.
Without Brady, freshman Tre Williams from Columbia-Rock Bridge, a four-star recruit who is listed at 6-feet-4 and 235 pounds, probably cracks the rotation as well. During the last several seasons, defensive end has been a position of strength and a difference-making spot for Missouri’s defense. It’s produced two SEC defensive players of the year (Michael Sam and Shane Ray) and two more second-round NFL picks (Kony Ealy and Markus Golden). Even with new defensive line coach Jackie Shipp taking the reins from Craig Kuligowski, who’s now at Miami (Fla.), the Tigers intend to keep that pipeline going.