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SEC 2015: The Missouri Tigers Rebuild at Defensive End Again. Probably Successfully Again

Even with two great starters gone, there's every reason to believe that the other other Tigers will have a solid tandem at both sides of the defensive line

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri Tigers are losing a lot at the defensive end position this year. In 2014, Shane Ray set the school's all-time record for sacks in a season with 14.5. Across from him, Markus Golden chimed in with 10. It's not every year that you're going to get more than 20 sacks in a season just from your two starting defensive ends.

In fact, the last time the top two Missouri defensive ends turned in more than 20 sacks was ... in 2013. When Michael Sam and Kony Ealy combined for 21 sacks (11.5 for Sam, 9.5 for Ealy). There are no other such tandems in Missouri history, but that any school should have two in a row is astounding enough.

It isn't just the 20-sacks-a-year mark. Every Missouri player who has ever logged more than eight sacks in a season has done so since the turn of the century. All but two of them did so in 2005 or later. The overwhelming majority of them have been coached by Craig Kuligowski, who turned down a co-defensive coordinator offer from Illinois in the offseason to remain in Columbia.

And Kuligowski and Gary Pinkel have to do it all again following the losses of Ray and Golden. It doesn't help that Marcus Loud, who was penciled in at one of the starting defensive end positions in the spring, was ousted courtesy of the dreaded violation of team rules (or "program policies," as Mizzou apparently calls them). That left Charles Harris, who started the Indiana game in 2014 in place of Golden, as one of two non-freshmen listed on the pre-fall depth chart.

Harris might be able to fill some of the void. In more limited playing time than Ray or Golden last year -- though Harris saw action in all 14 of the Tigers' games -- the then-freshman logged two sacks among four tackles for loss. Harris also broke up a couple of passes and forced a fumble. But you have to have two defensive ends. Well, you don't have to, but the defense generally performs better if you do.

The other spot right now seems like something of a battle. Walter Brady was given the spot in the August depth chart, but junior college transfer Marcell Frazier seems to be charging toward the starting spot. At the College of the Siskiyous (note: this is a real place) last year, Frazier had 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He ranked ninth in sacks in the California Community College Athletic Association. There is, um, a difference between playing the CCCAA and playing the SEC, of course -- but Frazier could have a much worse teacher than Kuligowski to help him adjust.

So, yes, Missouri is losing two great defensive linemen. And yes, they could very well just plug in two more good defensive linemen to make up the difference. Same as it ever was, or at least as it has been for a very long time.