On the eve of first-year football coach Barry Odom’s inaugural fall camp at Missouri, the team confirmed Wednesday that two defensive linemen were no longer on the roster.
The Tigers dismissed sophomore defensive end Walter Brady for an unspecified violation of team rules and senior defensive tackle Harold Brantley for failing to meet academic expectations.
Brady, a native of Florence, Ala., tied for the team lead with seven sacks last season, which also tied for the most sacks by any freshman in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
He finished eighth on the Tigers with 40 tackles and was chosen as a Freshman All-American by several publications.
Brady’s 12 1/2 tackles for a loss were the second-most on the team. He also seven quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Meanwhile, Brantley missed last season after suffering severe injuries in a June 2015 car crash. He was still rehabilitating after a broken left tibia, ligament damage in his left knee, several broken ribs and a cracked shoulder blade, but Mizzou was hopeful he could return to the field this fall.
“He’s made a lot of progress, a tremendous amount from the times we talked in the spring until now,” Odom said when asked about Brantley as SEC Football Media Days. “Weightwise, he’s up around the 270 marks. When he got out of the hospital, he was down around 200, so he’s made a lot of progress. It’s day-to-day with him on getting back and re-teaching himself how to run and change direction.”
Instead of a feel-good story, Brantley’s career appears finished after he consistently struggled to meet expectations in the classroom.
Brantley didn’t fully participate in spring practice, in part, because of academic issues, but Odom said at SEC Media Days that Brantley finished the spring semester in strong fashion.
Teammates, especially junior defensive end Charles Harris, raved about Brantley.
“Harold’s doing great,” Harris said at SEC Media Days. “Old Harold, new Harold — he’s just Harold. He’s really just Harold. … From the outside looking in, he looks great to me. Overall, he’s looking great. He’s a physical specimen.”
As a redshirt sophomore in 2014, Brantley recorded 54 tackles, including seven for a loss, with five sacks. He also blocked a field goal and an extra point that season.
The loss of Brady and Brantley deals a blow to Mizzou’s depth, but it was a position of strength for Odom’s squad.
Brady is the only player from last season’s rotation who won’t return in 2016.
Harris, who is listed among preseason All-America by several publications and is on the preseason watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Awards, is poised for a monster season despite two offseason shoulder surgeries.
Junior Marcell Frazier probably moves up to the starting left defensive end spot for now, but sophomores Nate Howard and Spencer Williams and freshman Tre Williams, a four-star recruit from Columbia-Rock Bridge, provide tremendous depth.
On the interior, it’s unclear how much or how effective Brantley would have been if and when he returned to the field.
Fortunately for the Tigers, there’s still plenty of depth there with seniors Josh Augusta and Rickey Hatley, junior A.J. Logan and sophomores Terry Beckner Jr. and Josh Moore in the mix.
Brantley’s biggest impact might be the emotional toll. His comeback was an inspiration for teammates and his departure will be a bummer.
“I didn’t really look at (entering the NFL Draft last spring) too hard to too in-depth just because of Harold Brantley,” Harris said at SEC Media Days. “I wanted to play another season with him. I’m going to play another season with him this year. That’s my brother; I love him. That’s something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to play on the field with him.”