Missouri Preview 2006 - Defense
Missouri Tigers
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Missouri Tigers Preview 2006 - Missouri Tiger Defense

What you need to know ... The defense had to overcome big-time growing pains on the front seven last year, but it should all pay off with a huge 2006 led by a deep and talented line that should be among the best in the Big 12. Brian Smith is a superior pass rusher to go along with a quick group of prospects at the other spots. Dedrick Harrington and Marcus Bacon form a nice 1-2 linebacking punch with Van Alexander ready to break out on the weakside. There might be problems in the secondary if new starting corners Domonique Johnson and Darnell Terrell get off to rocky starts, but safety David Overstreet provides a good, veteran presence who'll keep the overall production from sliding. 

Returning Leaders
Tackles: David Overstreet, 100
Sacks: Brian Smith, 9
Interceptions: David Overstreet, Darnell Terrell 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Brian Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Darnell Terrell and sophomore CB Domonique Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Lorenzo Williams
Best pro prospect: Senior FS David Overstreet
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Overstreet, 3) NT Jamar Smith
Strength of the defense: Defensive line
Weakness of the defense:
Cornerback experience

Defensive Line
It'll be a major shock if this isn't one of the Big 12's best defensive lines with five talented players with starting experience returning and even more good players among the reserves. Brian Smith is one of the nation's best pass rushers, while the combination of Stryker Sulak and Xzavie Jackson on the other side should flourish. Lorenzo Williams is a next-level prospect at tackle, while Jamar Smith should be an All-Big 12 performer on the nose. Getting to the quarterback shouldn't be a problem but the group, now that it's experienced, has to be stronger against the run.
The key to the unit: Be more consistent against the run and hope Lorenzo Williams and Evander Hood grow into their potential at tackle.

Defensive Line Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- DE Brian Smith, Sr. - 66 tackles, 9 sacks, 17 TFL, 5 broken up passes, 12 quarterback hurries
The school's greatest sacker returns with 24 for his career and should be a lock for All-Big 12 honors yet again. He's not huge at 6-4 and 230 pounds, but he has a nose for getting into the backfield and for making big plays happen. He's not just a pass rushing specialist having grown into a great run defender as well.

- NT Jamar Smith, Sr. - 45 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 12 TFL, 5 quarterback hurries
The former JUCO transfer provides the attitude up front. He has good size at 280 pounds combined with aggressiveness and a non-stop motor. He turned into a great interior pass rusher once he figured out what he was doing, and now he should be good enough to flirt with All-Big 12 honors.

- DT Lorenzo Williams, Jr. - 35 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 6 quarterback hurries
There's a lot to get excited about with the 285-pound junior about to explode into a big-time performer. He had a good first season holding down one of the tackle spots, and now he should be a more consistent pass rusher with too much speed inside for most offensive linemen to handle. After coming to Missouri as a linebacker, he turned into an end and now is one of the Big 12's quickest tackles.

- DE Stryker Sulak, Soph. - 38 tackles, 4 sacks, 6.5 TFL. 5 quarterback hurries
Sulak grabbed hold of a starting spot at end last year and will combine with Xzavie Jackson this year to form a dangerous pass rushing duo. He's a tall, long defender at 6-4 and 245 pounds and good toughness and a quick burst to the ball.

Top Backups
- DE Xzavie Jackson, Sr. - 44 tackles, 6 sacks, 11 TFL, 3 broken up passes, 6 quarterback hurries
A starter for the first half of last year before getting knocked out of the job by Styker Sulak, he came back to have a good bowl game and possesses enough experience and talent to play either end position. At 275 pounds, he's a big run stopper and has developed into a decent pass rusher.
- DT Evander Hood, Soph. - 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
Hood played a big role as a true freshman and should be a big-time brick wall against the run playing behind Lorenzo Williams. "Ziggy" is athletic enough to play end if needed.
- DT DeMarcus Scott, Sr. - 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
The former JUCO transfer has turned himself into a bowling ball on the nose at 6-0 and 285 pounds. The former linebacker spent last year at end, but he's a now true tackle after bulking up to handle the workload on the inside to play behind Jamar Smith.

Linebacker was a major concern last year, but it should eventually become of the team's strengths with Dedrick Harrington returning to the middle and Marcus Bacon a talented senior on the strongside. The entire corps can really move mainly because it's full of bulked up defensive backs, but it's not a small group by any stretch. There's plenty of athleticism and talent among the reserves, but there's not a lot of experience. Even so, expect there to be an excellent rotation as the year goes on.
The key to the unit: Be better against the run and use the overall speed to make more big plays.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Van Alexander, Soph. - 20 tackles
One of the team's prized recruits of a few years ago, the 230-pound sophomore has as much speed and talent as any of the linebackers. It took him a few years to bulk up, and now his newfound strength, along with his range should make him a top tackler on the weakside.

- Dedrick Harrington, Sr. - 73 tackles, 3 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes, 4 forced fumbles
The former safety started off slowly, and then he became a major playmaker in the middle. Now that he knows what he's doing, he should be special in the middle. He has the size at 6-4 and 240 pounds while keeping the athleticism of a defensive back. He has All-Big 12 written all over him if he can progress a bit more and can come bak 100% after injuring his arm against South Carolina..

- Marcus Bacon, Sr. - 85 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble
Bacon finished third on the team in tackles on the strongside finishing up with a tremendous performance against South Carolina in the Independence Bowl making 11 tackles. The former safety can fly to the ball with the speed to blow by blockers to make big plays.

Top Backups
- Brock Christopher, Soph. - 31 tackles, 1 interception
At 6-2 and 240 pounds, Christopher is the team's biggest linebacker and has to be big against the run playing behind Dedrick Harrington in the middle. He was great as a true freshman and more than held his own in place of an injured Harrington against South Carolina. He doesn't have the range of Harrington, but he can still be an effective starter if needed.
- Chad Washington, RFr.
Washington was a defensive back last year, but now the former corner will use his great speed on the weakside behind Van Alexander. He's only 210 pounds and doesn't have much room to get bigger, but he hits like a ton of bricks playing much larger than his size and is a fast playmaker.
- Steve Redmond, Soph.
Redmond has bulked up to 235 pounds and will be a talented backup behind Marcus Bacon. He still needs polish and isn't ready to step into a starting role, but he has the potential to grow into a force on the strongside.

Defensive Backs
Missouri's secondary was a disappointment last year considering all the returning experience from the nation's third best pass defense in 2004, so there shouldn't be too much of a drop-off despite the loss of three starters. The biggest concern is at corner losing Calvin Washington and A.J. Kincade, but Darnell Terrell and Domonique Johnson add more size and great potential. David Overstreet is one of the nation's best safeties no matter where he plays. He'll make the move from strong safety to free safety, but he could move back if William Moore turns out to be too good to keep off the field. There isn't a whole bunch of experience among the reserves.
The key to the unit: Hoping the corners mature quickly into dependable starters. More big plays are needed against short to midrange passing games.
Secondary Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- CB Darnell Terrell, Jr. - 12 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer made an impact last year in a limited role with an interception to seal the Independence Bowl win over South Carolina. He's a big, 6-2 corner with tremendous athleticism and the all-around skill to grow into the starting job at one of the corner spots.

- FS David Overstreet, Sr. - 100 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 broken up passes, 4 TFL, 3 recovered fumbles
Overstreet showed glimpses of how good he could be as a sophomore, and then he blew up as a junior leading the team in tackles at strong safety. With his speed, he's a more natural free safety and will make the move this year freeing up a spot for Brandon Massey to step in. He's a smart, strong playmaker who should be tremendous with more room to roam against the pass. He had a little bit of trouble with his knee this off-season, but it's not expected to be a problem this year.

- SS Brandon Massey, Sr. - 20 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The former Michigan State Spartan has been a nickel back so far, and now he'll get his chance in the full-time role after shining against South Carolina in the Independence Bowl. He has been around long enough to know what he's doing, but now he has to show he can be more than a backup.

- CB Domonique Johnson, Soph. - 35 tackles, 2 broken up passes
The team's most experienced corner is a big-time athlete with great size at 6-2 and 190 pounds. He needs to make more big plays when the ball is in the air, but that will come with more experience. With enough speed to be used as a kick returner if needed, he has to put it all together and become a steady number one corner.

Top Backups
- FS William Moore, Soph. - 30 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
Moore will find a spot somewhere in the secondary early on. He's 6-2 and 215 pounds with some of the best all-around skills of any of the defensive backs. He was knocked out with a foot injury in the bowl game, but he'll be back without a problem and could knock Brandon Massey out of the strong safety spot. At the very least he'll be a talented nickel back and a reserve behind David Overstreet.
- CB Trenile Washington, Soph.
The 5-10 Washington isn't as big as the other corner options, but he makes up for it with next-level speed. He didn't see much time last year, but he'll be counted on as the top corner off the bench behind Darnell Terrell.
- CB Hardy Ricks, RFr.
Ricks spent the last year bulking up to 190 pounds to become more physical, and now one of the stars of last year's recruiting class should make an impact behind Domonique Johnson at one of the corners.

Special Teams
Adam Crossett is a weapon as both a placekicker and a punter, but he needs to be a bit sharper on field goals. He has unlimited range and should be better in his second year as the full-time kicker. The return game will be interesting depending on how much Marcus Woods is used. The top tailback might not get as much work as a punt returner despite averaging 26.9 yards on seven tries. Earl Goldsmith could end up being the main man early on. More pop on kickoff returns is needed after averaging a mere 19.6 yards per try.
The key to the unit: More consistency on short field goals from Justin Crossett and more production on kickoff returns. The coverage units have to be much, much better.
Special Teams Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- PK/P Adam Crossett, Jr. - 14-20 FGs, 39-42 extra points, 57 punts, 2,432 yards, 42.7 average, 17 inside the 20
After seeing a little bit of work as a freshman, the 6-3, 225-pound Crossett had a solid first year as the main man, but now he needs to be more consistent. He has the leg to strike from anywhere 50 yards and in, but he missed a few chips shots. Even with his six misses and three missed extra points he set the school-record for kicker points. While he's an above-average field goal kicker, he's an All-America-caliber punter with a tremendous accuracy and range. He put an impressive 17 kicks inside the 20.

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