2010 Missouri Preview – Defense
Missouri DE Aldon Smith
Missouri DE Aldon Smith
Posted Jul 9, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Missouri Tiger Defense

Missouri Tigers

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Shhhhh. That sound you don't hear is LB Sean Weatherspoon, an all-star both on the field and in the woofing department, around Columbia anymore. He's the only loss of note on a defense that came up with some puzzling collapses and gags, but showed the promise and potential to be really, really good. Ten players with appreciable starting experience are back, led by DE Aldon Smith and a loaded linebacking corps, but the secondary has to come up with more picks and big plays while the front seven has to get tougher when push comes to shove. The defensive backs will be more aggressive, and they can afford to be with Smith and the rest of the athletic front four certain to be regulars into the backfield, while Andrew Cachkar and Will Ebner should shine at linebacker now that Weatherspoon is an Atlanta Falcon.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Andrew Gachkar, 80
Sacks: Aldon Smith, 11.5
Interceptions: Kevin Rutland, 2

Star of the defense: Sophomore DE Aldon Smith
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Zaviar Gooden
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman SS Matt White
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) LB Andrew Gachkar, 3) CB Kevin Rutland
Strength of the defense: Experience, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Big Plays From The Secondary, Consistency

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Sophomore Aldon Smith was one of the major finds of the 2009 Big 12 season earning the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award along with a slew of all-conference and freshman All-America honors. The 6-2, 255-pounder went from being a dangerous prospect with a world of upside to major league pass rusher finishing with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss along with 64 tackles. Very quick and always working, he forces his way into the backfield with a creative array of moves as well as next-level athleticism. He's the star up front the rest of the line will work around.

While he's not the playmaker that Aldon Smith is, junior Jacquies Smith is a pass rusher who worked in and out of the lineup with five starts making 39 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles along with an interception taken 43 yards for a score against Furman. While the 6-4, 250-pounder had a slight ankle injury this offseason, he's expected to be fine and should shine with all the attention paid to the other side. Mizzou stole the Dallas native out of Texas, and now he appears ready to use his quickness to become a more dangerous pass rusher.

Trying to stuff things up on the nose is the massive 6-5, 300-pound Dominique Hamilton , a run stopper who turned into a nice starter making 46 tackles with a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss. While he's a bit too tall for a normal nose tackle, he's able to get good leverage and he has a great wingspan to engulf ballcarriers. With his combination of size and quickness, the junior could be a whale of a 3-4 end at the next level.

At 6-5 and 295 pounds, junior Terrell Resonno is a good-sized interior presence needs to play up to his potential. A star recruit a few years ago, he has the perfect combination of athleticism and strength for a tackle, and he showed it off a little bit with 13 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss in his action as a backup. He started the opener against Illinois before moving to a reserve role, and now he has to show he can be consistent and tough against the run to hold down the No. 1 spot.

Projected Top Reserves: After a terrific offseason, and with all of one tackle under his belt last year, 6-4, 245-pound sophomore Brad Madison is expected to become a major factor in the outside rotation with Jacquies Smith. Madison was fantastic when Smith hurt his ankle this spring showing off a relentless pass rushing ability. The former offensive lineman is a surprising athlete who gets around the edge in a blur, while his motor is great on special teams.

6-2, 290-pound sophomore Jimmy Burge didn't do much in his first year, but he showed enough this offseason to be one of the key factors in the rotation at both tackle spots. Built for the nose, the one-time top prospect tough enough to hold his own against the run, but he'll start out the year at the other tackle job in a rotation with Terrell Resonno.

Junior Brendan Donaldson has been around for a long time, starting his career on the offensive side before switching to defensive tackle. Mostly a scout teamer so far, he has yet to make a stop, but he has the 6-2, 295-pound size, the practice experience, and the potential to be serviceable on the nose.

Sophomore Marcus Malbrough will work behind Aldon Smith as a rising pass rushing prospect. The 6-5, 255-pound Texan is a great practice player and has a good motor that gets him to the quarterback. Now he has to do it in game action after serving as a backup throughout last year making six tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss.

Watch Out For … the tackles. Hamilton is a growing playmaker on the inside, while Resonno has too much talent to not become a bigger factor. The run defense was fine last year, and if these two play as expected, it'll be terrific.
Strength: the Smiths. The pass rush from the interior should be decent, but the heat comes from the outside where Aldon Smith is already one of the nation's most fearsome pass rushers and Jacquies Smith has the skills to shine if he can handle the expanded role. Throw in the upside of Madison, and the ends are solid.
Weakness: Proven backup tackles. Burge is a talent who'll soon become a factor, and Donaldson has good size, but there will be some mega-concerns if injuries strike the tackles. Mizzou likes to use a rotation, and the twos have to prove they're ready.
Outlook: The line has done a nice job over the last few years of getting into the backfield helping the D come up with 31 sacks after generating 33 two years ago. Even without a rock in Ziggy Hood, the Tigers allowed 119 rushing yards per game after giving up 125 in 2008. With almost all the key parts returning, led by Aldon Smith, expect more of the same with even more effort to get into the backfield on a regular basis.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: Gone is heart-and-soul weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and in comes Andrew Gachkar , a 6-3, 228-pound senior who started every game last year on the strongside finishing second on the team with 80 tackles with three sacks and three recovered fumbles. A tough hitter who has new regard for his body as he throws it around all over the place, he's physical, but now he has to be more disruptive. As good as Weatherspoon was, he was average in coverage; Gachkar has to try to improve the pass defense.

Junior Will Ebner is one of the team's toughest players fighting through a knee injury to finish as the team's third leading tackler. The 6-1, 230-pounder ended up making 78 tackles with 3.5 sack s and 9.5 tackles for loss on the way to honorable mention All-Big 12 honors, and now the big hitter in the middle should do even more. He's a tone-setter of a tackler who beats people up against the run, and he has just enough quickness to get into the backfield from time to time. He'll erase ball carriers.

Very smart and very, very fast, 6-2, 225-pound sophomore Zaviar Gooden will get the first look at the open strongside spot after starting out his career as a safety. With 30 tackles with three tackles for loss and a broken up pass, he did enough to get his feet wet, and now he'll bring his 4.3 speed to the outside where he'll be used as a pass rusher. A great tackler, he won't miss an open field stop.

Projected Top Reserves: More like a returning starter than a backup option, senior Luke Lambert is a veteran who started six times last year but missed the other half of the season hurt with a shoulder problem. The 6-3, 235-pounder can play inside or out, starting at times on the strongside and with the toughness to play in the middle, like he'll do in a rotation with Will Ebner. He made 20 tackles after making 58 stops two seasons ago, and he should be one of the team's leaders if he can stay on the field.

Donovan Bonner started as a true freshman working on special teams, along with getting a little bit of time at linebacker, making nine tackles with a tackle for loss. The 6-2, 230-pound sophomore appears to be the next great Tiger linebacker, and he'll get his shot to show what he can do as the starter next year after serving this season as the understudy on the weakside behind Andrew Gachkar. With great range to go along with his size, he can play any of the three spots.

A nice recruit who was considered one of Missouri's top high school prospects two years ago, 6-3, 230-pound Andrew Wilson will get a chance to show what he can do in game action after becoming a light-him-up hitter in practices. A top scout teamer, he's a physical presence on the strongside and should be a top run stopper whenever he gets the opportunity.

Watch Out For … the middle. Ebner got a little bit of recognition, but he didn't get much of the limelight with Sean Weatherspoon taking most of it. Lambert, when healthy, might be the starter with Ebner moving over, or else Ebner will start in the middle with Lambert moving to the outside.
Strength: Tacklers. There's no shortage of huge hitters in a group of very active, very physical defender. Everyone can pop, and while some plays are missed by being overly aggressive, this is an intimidating crew that likes to get into the ground game.
Weakness: Pass coverage. The linebackers aren't asked to do too much when the ball is in the air, but they have to start making more plays on the short to midrange passes to help out the secondary. This unit is built for run stopping, but it also has to show it can handle the better running teams after getting ripped apart by Nevada and Navy.
Outlook: The group is a bit suspect after getting pantsed by Navy for 385 rushing yards and four scores in the bowl, but that was an aberration. It'll hurt to lose Weatherspoon, who took on the leadership role both on the field and in the locker room, and others have to step up into the void. However, there's plenty of experience, plenty of tackling ability, and enough versatility for the coaching staff to play around with the combination.
Unit Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: Senior Kevin Rutland is trying to take over the leadership role lost with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon off to the Atlanta Falcons, but first the 6-0, 195-pound corner has to do even more on the field. While he earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors with 47 tackles and a sack, he only came up with two picks and two broken up passes. One of the team's fastest players and a great open field tackler, he does a little of everything well. Now he has to use all his skills and all his experience to erase one side of the field.

Senior Carl Gettis is one of the Big 12's best tackling corners, following up a 78-tackle 2008 with 61 stops with five broken up passes earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. While Kevin Rutland might be the leader of the secondary, Gettis is the better pass defender with excellent quickness and the strength to handle the more physical targets without a problem. With his aggressive style, he's a perfect fit for the new attitude of the secondary.

In one of the surprises of spring ball, redshirt freshman Matt White looked like a star who'll be able to shine at free safety for the next four years. At 6-0 and 180 pounds, he's not all that big, but he's extremely bright, doesn't make mistakes, and is one of the best athletes in the secondary. He's not going to be a huge hitter, but he should be an excellent ball-hawker who makes several big plays.

Coming in from the JUCO ranks, 6-1, 205-pound senior Jasper Simmons paid off right away finishing fourth on the team with 73 tackles. He picked off a pass and made two tackles for loss, but he didn't make enough big plays. That will change more as a run defender at strong safety after forcing two fumbles last season, and the hope is that the honorable mention All-Big 12 performer will be an even bigger difference-making all-star.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO transfer Jarrell Harrison ended up starting in six games finishing with 47 tackles, a pick, three broken up passes and a sack. While he might have been moved out of the starting strong safety job by Matt White, at least going into the season, he's not going to give up the gig without a fight. At 6-2 and 217 pounds he's very big and very aggressive with too much talent to not be on the field in some way. He could end up being a whale of a nickel or dime defender.

Junior Kenji Jackson has been a good spot starter over the last few seasons making 62 tackles in 2008 and 41 last year. The 5-10, 195-pound strong safety can play anywhere in the secondary with good range and nice physical skills. An all-star in the classroom, he's a smart player who's always in the right spot. While not an elite talent, his versatility makes him one of the team's most important defensive backs.

Senior Munir Prince transferred over from Notre Dame a few years ago, but he didn't make much of an impact in his first season making just six tackles. The 5-10, 185-pound corner (and former Irish running back) can play free safety or in nickel packages using his elite wheels to get around in a hurry. Also a prospect for the return game, he'll be used in some way to get his speed on the field.

Sophomore Kip Edwards had a strong first season making 20 tackles, with most of his work coming late in the year. The 6-1, 200-pounder has good size for a corner and is physical, but he needs work and time to become a stronger pass defender. He made a pick with two broken up passes, but he needs to show more consistency to get on the field on a regular basis.

Watch Out For … White. It's not that Mizzou is lacking for strong safety options, and there's a proven starter in place in Harrison, but White has the look of something special. He might not be huge and he might not be a teeth-rattling hitter, but he'll make lots and lots of plays.
Strength: Experience and athleticism. The Tigers have speed to burn at all four spots and get four regular starters back. There's talent to get excited about, and the production was a wee bit better last season, but …
Weakness: Pass defense. The Tigers got destroyed by everyone's passing game in 2008, and yes, there was some improvement, but they gave up 251 yards per game and 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Baylor and Kansas each went for over 400 yards, and the only teams that didn't hit the 200 yard mark were the offensively challenged (Colorado and Nebraska) and the one-dimensional (Nevada and Navy).
Outlook: Even with a great pass rush up front and a ton of speed and athleticism in the secondary, the Tigers haven't stopped anyone's passing game in years. The coaching staff is going to change things up. Now the DBs are going to attack more, be more aggressive, and press a bit to try to force more mistakes. There will be some big-time torchings now and then, but the hope will be to add more picks to the mix. There's experience and talent here, and there's no reason to not be far better.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters: All junior Grant Ressel had to do was step in and replace Jeff Wolfert, the most accurate kicker in the history of college football. Ressel wasn't bad … the former walk-on hit 26-of-27 field goals with the one miss coming from 43 yards out against Nebraska in bad weather. While he didn't attempt many bombs, his longest make coming from 46 yards away against Bowling Green, he hit 7-of-8 attempts from 40-to-49 yards away. He'll be in the hunt for All-America honors and the Lou Groza Award.

Jake Henry came up with a fantastic year averaging 42.8 yards per kick with 23 put inside the 20. Senior Matt Grabner got to try one punt and hit a 38-yarder inside the 20 against Illinois in the opener. He's a big kicker who transferred over from Ole Miss, and he has a big leg with the ability to blast away.

Safety Jasper Simmons is a serviceable kick returner averaging 22.6 yards per try, but he has the wheels and the quickness to bust out a few more big runs. Corner Carl Gettis is back as the main punt returner after averaging a pedestrian 7.1 yards per try.

Watch Out For … Grabner. Mizzou always gets great production out of the punt coverage teams, but Grabner can help out the cause on his own. He's a bomber who can put the ball anywhere.
Strength: Ressel. Lose one all-timer of a kicker, replace him with another. It's not like Mizzou needed him to be consistently great, only one game was decided by fewer than seven points, but he was deadly accurate and will get more room to try even more big kicks.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. It wasn't awful, but allowing 22.5 yards per try wasn't great. The Tigers never got burned, with the longest return 53 yards. On the flip side, the mediocre return game only came up with a long of 34 yards.
Outlook: The Missouri special teams have now become a yearly big thing. The coaching staff knows how to get the most of their kickers and coverage teams, and the return games are just good enough to get by. Be shocked if this isn't a big advantage once again.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2010 Missouri Preview | 2010 Missouri Offense
- 2010 Missouri Defense | 2010 Missouri Depth Chart
- Missouri Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006