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.
David Overstreet, 100
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:
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
- 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
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
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
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.
- 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
- DT Evander Hood, Soph. - 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5
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
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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.