Harold Brantley could have lost his life during a June 2015 car wreck and did lose 80 pounds as he recovered in a Columbia hospital.
The injuries he suffered cost him the 2015 season and left a long road of surgeries and rehabilitation in Brantley’s path, but the journey to complete (or near complete) recovery was expected to be a rapturous moment when he retook the field for Missouri during the 2016 football season.
It won’t happen, not after Brantley was dismissed Wednesday for failing to meet the program’s academic expectations during the summer.
Given the uncertainty of his on-field impact for the upcoming season, it’s hard to know how much of a blow Brantley’s absence will be in terms of wins and losses.
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There’s no doubt that his leadership will be missed in the locker room.
That said, the core that was expected to carry the Tigers’ interior line remains and should once again be a strength of the defense.
Here is a look at Missouri’s defensive tackles in The Star’s continuing preseason roster breakdown:
Returning starters: Josh Augusta, senior; Terry Beckner Jr., sophomore; Rickey Hatley, senior.
Other returning contributors: Tyler Hanneke, senior; A.J. Logan, junior; Josh Moore, sophomore; Adam Roland, sophomore.
Newcomers: Markell Utsey, freshman.
Projected 2016 starters: Augusta and Beckner.
Outlook: Projecting starters here is foolhardy, because the interior line rotates more than any other defensive position. Seniors Josh Augusta (6-4, 345) and Rickey Hatley (6-4, 285) could receive nearly equal snaps as the season progresses. The starter designation may not matter much and both were roughly equal from a production standpoint last season. Augusta and Hatley each finished with 27 tackles, though Hatley appeared in one fewer game. Augusta finished with 8 1/2 tackles for a loss compared to 4 1/2 for Hatley, who had the duo’s only sack. Augusta also had three quarterback hurries to Hatley’s one.
The most talented player in the group, of course, might be sophomore Terry Beckner Jr. He is among the biggest recruiting coups of former coach Gary Pinkel’s tenure, landing one of the nation’s top high school tackles in a recruiting battle with Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Southern California, among others. Beckner was terrific as a true freshman before suffering a torn ACL against BYU. He earned several Freshman All-American honors after totaling 27 tackles, including eight for a loss, with three sacks, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. Assuming the knee’s fully healthy, pencil Beckner in as the defensive line’s anchor.
Junior A.J. Logan (21 tackles, two for a loss) and sophomore Josh Moore from Olathe North (nine tackles, 0.5 for a loss) provide additional quality depth inside, while some combination of senior Tyler Hanneke, sophomore walk-on Adam Roland and freshman Markell Utsey also could factor into the rotation as needed in 2016.