The Missouri defensive line is anchored by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson is very similar to Georgia defensive tackle Garrison Smith in his ability to explode off the ball and play a yard deep in the opposing team's backfield. Despite being slightly less than 300 pounds, the redshirt junior holds up well against double-teams, and has the ability to flow down the line and make plays on the edge. Matt Koch is listed as the team's starting nose tackle, and he brings great size and length to the table. Against Northeast Louisiana last week, Koch did well against double teams and was able to reset the line of scrimmage on a couple of occasions for the Mizzou defense. The Tiger defensive ends, Michael Sam and Cony Ealy, are a couple of impressive looking athletes that caused a great deal of trouble for Northeast Louisiana last week. Both have good size as Sam is 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and Ealy is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. Neither strikes you as the explosive pass rusher that can take over the game from rushing off the edge, but both have the ability to beat tackles on the edge, to the inside, with a bull rush, and play with a great deal of effectiveness against the run.
While Mizzou's defensive line is talented, their group of linebackers may be even more so. The best of the bunch, on film at least, looks to be Zaviar Gooden. Gooden is a tremendous athlete that flies around the field and can wreak havoc in coverage. He had a interception return for a touchdown last week, and does a good job of dropping into coverage and plays with great instincts once at the end of his drop. While Gooden is the guy they rely on to fly around and make plays all over the field, Andrew Wilson is their best down hill player. Whether he lines up at inside linebacker or now, Wilson is an inside linebacker in the truest since of the word. He does a good job of reading his keeps, and takes great angles to the football he finds it. Will Ebner is Missouri's third linebacker, and was listed as questionable for this contest earlier in the week, but is expected to play at this time.
At cornerback the Tigers will start E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards. Gaines is the smaller of the two, but can be surprisingly physical as a tackler. He plays with a fearless mentality and doesn't mind sticking his nose in there and making a play on the ball carrier. Gaines is also a solid leaper with good speed although it wouldn't be considered great closing speed. Edwards had a tough game last week against Northeast Louisiana and looks a bit stiff and uncomfortable in space. He doesn't turn his hips well, and looked as if he was having trouble getting out of his back pedal at times. He also struggled when asked to come up and make a play on the ball carrier. The safety position for the Tigers is one that could be in a state of flux on Saturday. Kenronte Walker and Braylon Webb are listed as the starters, and both played fairly well against Northeast Louisiana last week. Webb, however is in no position to get comfortable with his job. He is coming off a knee injury this fall, and it appears that his understudies are hot on his heels. If Webb struggles, you could see Matt White or Ian Simon. Questions exist about whether or not either of those two have the ability to get the job done at a high level as well, so this position is one to watch. If Walker or Gaines get nicked up at any point, it could spell trouble for the Tigers and their ability to defend the pass.
• 1st down - The Tigers aren't a very aggressive defense on first down. The play in a base set with their primary coverage of Cover 2 about 68% on first down. When they blitz, it is usually a run blitz designed to control gaps and keep the offense from setting up second down.
• Second down and long - This is a blitz down for Mizzou but not heavily. They brought pressure around 61% of the time, and in 88% of their blitzes, they brought more than one man.
• Second down and medium - This is a base down for the Tigers. It appears as if they want to stay balanced and get it to third down where they can be more creative.
• Second down and short - Again, like second and medium, second and short is a base down for the Tigers where the like to let their defensive line do the work and thwart the running game.
• Third down and long - The Tigers have shown a tendency to be quite aggressive on third down and especially third and long. This is their most heavily blitzed down and distance at 66%
• Third down and medium - Again, based on film, the Tigers tend to blitz on any third down distance and medium is no different. Mizzou brought pressure on 62% of third and mediums.
• Third down and short - While the blitzes are different, the same aggressive approach remains on third and short as the Tigers go with cap control blitzes and stunts on third and short to stop the run game. They bring some sort of blitz about 63% of the time.
• The Tigers created 22 turnovers in 2011, and did a great job of creating turnovers in their first game against Northeast Louisiana by recovering three fumbles and one interception.
• In 2011, Mizzou had the third best red zone defense in the Big 12 by allowing teams to score 76.1 percent of the time. They had had four red zone interceptions in 2011.
• The Tigers also finished in the bottom half of the Big 12 in opponents third down conversion as teams converted 41.1 percent of third downs.
• In regards to special teams, the Mizzou was eighth in their conference last year in kickoff coverage with an average opponent starting position being a their own 28 yard line.
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