Mizzou's All-Decade Team: D-Line U produced several outstanding linemen
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs.
The Missouri Tigers won SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014 on the strength of their defense. In 2013, the Tigers ranked No. 34 in scoring defense, and they finished No. 19 in the country in 2014.
Later in the decade, when Josh Heupel took over as the team’s offensive coordinator, the defense spent a lot more time on the field. That was thanks to Heupel’s fast-paced offense that would either score or be forced to punt without taking much time off the clock.
Still, there were plenty of talented players who cycled through the Tigers’ defense over the past decade, so let’s take a look at who made the cut for the Mizzou All-Decade defense:
DEs: Michael Sam (2010-13), Charles Harris (2014-16)
The Tigers have sent a number of defensive linemen to the NFL, getting a reputation as “D-Line U.” Sam and Harris personified that moniker, wreaking havoc on SEC offenses during their time in Columbia. Sam ranks No. 4 on Mizzou’s all-time sacks list with 21.
Harris, meanwhile, went from a 2-star recruit to a 1st-round draft pick. Yes, he has struggled in the NFL thus far, but that doesn’t factor into his spot on the all-decade team. He recorded an impressive 18 sacks during his Mizzou career.
Backup: Marcell Frazier (2015-17)
Frazier was credited for 16.5 sacks during his time with the Tigers, checking in just behind Harris. He was also a vocal leader of the defense, so he gets credit for that. He was a solid player who always seemed to be there when you needed him.
DTs: Terry Beckner Jr. (2015-18), Kony Ealy (2011-13)
Ealy’s 2013 season was one for the ages, as he recorded 43 tackles (15 for a loss), 9 sacks, 6 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception, which he returned 49 yards for a touchdown. Yeah, that’s pretty solid.
Even though Beckner suffered a pair of serious knee injuries early in his Mizzou career, he bounced back in 2017 and 2018 to put together some solid numbers. In his time with the Tigers, he recorded 120 tackles (32 for a loss), 13.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. Not bad for the former 5-star recruit.
Backup: Jordan Elliott (2016-19)
Elliott played well enough to forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL draft. If he plays well enough at the NFL Combine and his pro day, he has a chance to be drafted. In his 2 years at Mizzou, Elliott recorded 68 tackles (16.5 for a loss) and 5.5 sacks.
OLBs: Shane Ray (2012-14), Markus Golden (2012-14)
These guys were absolutely outstanding pass rushers during their time at Mizzou. Ray had 14.5 sacks in 2014 to shatter Mizzou’s single-season record. Ray finished tied for fifth on the Tigers’ all-time sacks list with 19, while Golden tied for 13th with 16.5.
They really define the “edge rusher” position, and both were absolutely outstanding during their careers. They provided plenty of pressure during some of Mizzou’s best years in the SEC.
Backup: Terez Hall (2015-18)
Hall fills more of a traditional 4-3 outside linebacker role, and he did it really well. In 2017 and 2018, he recorded 151 tackles (21.5 for a loss) and 6 sacks while playing alongside Cale Garrett (more on him in a second).
ILB: Kentrell Brothers (2012-15)
Brothers’ 152 total tackles in 2015 led the nation and rank No. 4 on Mizzou’s single-season list. His 358 career tackles are tied for eighth, just behind Barry Odom’s 362. He also had 5 picks, 4.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles.
A first-team All-SEC pick in 2015, Brothers was everything you wanted in a middle linebacker. He’s currently a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Backup: Cale Garrett (2016-19)
Andrew Wilson and Michael Scherer were tough to leave off this list, but Garrett deserves the backup spot for the leadership he has shown the past 2 seasons. He finished his Mizzou career with 291 total tackles, which puts him at No. 19 in Tigers history. If he’d managed to play all 12 games this year instead of just 5, he would have likely moved into the top 10.
CBs: Aarion Penton (2013-16), E.J. Gaines (2010-13)
Penton was an absolute ball hawk during his time at Mizzou. He had 10 picks during his career, returning 1 for a touchdown. He also had 31 pass breakups and 153 tackles.
Gaines was no stranger to the backfield, making 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also finished his career with 8 interceptions, 20 breakups and 244 tackles. That’s an impressive number for a cornerback, and he was a huge part of the defense’s success from 2010-13. He went on to enjoy a 5-year NFL career and is currently a free agent.
Backup: DeMarkus Acy (2016-19)
Acy was one of the fastest players on Mizzou’s roster this decade, but it didn’t always lead to results. Acy had only 3 interceptions, 20 pass breakups and 99 tackles. That wasn’t always his fault, though, as he was often the corner opposing quarterbacks avoided throwing toward.
Safeties: Braylon Webb (2011-14), Anthony Sherrils (2014-17)
Webb had 4 solid years at Mizzou, and his final 2 — 2013 and 2014 — were outstanding. In those seasons, he finished with 159 tackles and 7 interceptions to lead the back end of a strong Mizzou secondary.
Sherrils recorded at least 53 tackles in each of his final 3 seasons. He also had 4 total interceptions in those seasons. He was on the back end of some less-than-stellar Mizzou defenses, but he could make some big plays.
Backup: Cam Hilton (2015-18)
Hilton made some big plays during his time in Columbia, recording 4 picks and 99 total tackles. He got burned a few times, but who didn’t in the Mizzou secondary during the Heupel era? Heupel’s offense put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Tigers defense, so it’s no surprise Hilton had his best season in 2018 when the Tigers had Derek Dooley as offensive coordinator.