Depth on the defensive line was a major strength in Missouri’s run to the SEC East division title and beyond last season, but graduation and an NFL defection took a toll.
With defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray now working as starters instead of backups, replacing that depth was critical.
It’s been a slow process, but there are signs that the 18th-ranked Tigers are rebuilding that depth, particularly on the edge.
“Both backup defensive ends really did well, too,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “They’re better than they were three weeks ago. They’re more active; they’re playing at a different level. We’re not there yet by any means, but both those guys — Charles (Harris) and Marcus (Loud) — are doing a great job backing those two great players up.”
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Loud, a 6-foot-4 and 260-pound redshirt freshman from Houston, finished with three tackles and was credited with a quarterback hurry against Central Florida.
“He really practiced well last week, and I was real excited to see him get there and make some plays,” Pinkel said.
Harris only had one tackle, but he also broke up a pass with pressure on Knights sophomore Justin Holman.
Sophomore Ricky Hatley, who plays at defensive end and tackle, registered a sack and a forced fumble last week.
“We moved Hatley back inside because of (the injury to Matt) Hoch,” Pinkel said. “That allowed him opportunities to play more too and he did a really good job. He was active, and you saw some of the things that he did. Real talented young player, just as Charles is on the other side.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Harold Brantley has the most experience of a young defensive line bunch, which also includes sophomore Josh Augusta.
Brantley played in all 14 games last season, including six starts, and finished with 30 tackles, including five for a loss.
He had two tackles along with a pass breakup and a hurry against Central Florida, rounding out a productive performance that highlighted the Tigers’ emerging depth.
“Harold really did some good things too,” Pinkel said. “He was all over the place. He’s very difficult to block. He’s very quick. He’s got great movement and change of direction for a guy 285 pounds.”
Now, Missouri just wants to see even more of it.