Walking through the front gates of Faurot Field in Columbia for the first game of the Missouri Tigers 2013 season I found myself cautiously optimistic being as how I've been a Missouri fan since the day I was born. Many times over the years the hype and expectations slowly faded as the action started but this felt a little bit different, coming off a season where injuries and new scenery crippled the Tigers to a 5-7 record.I thought to myself" This year something had to change and if the attitude shifted to a winning swagger great things could happen."
Micheal Sam was the SEC Defensive Plater Of The Year with 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and a strong 11.5 sacks.
Kony Ealy who didnt recieve as much of the accalade in the college ranks quickly turned NFL heads with his size, speed, and high ceiling. (42 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and a defensive touchdown to go along with his 3 forced fumbles.)
How does a team who relied so heavily on their two premire pass rushing defensive ends replace them without losing a step?
Missouri is returning 2 explosive replacements who will have no problem at all filling the massive shoes left by Sam and Ealy.
Junior; DE/LB Shane Ray was an impact player last season with limited playing time he was able to occur some solid stats with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. With any kind of step forward he will be a nightmare for any of the stud tackles of the SEC.
Now for the man who could make a serious run at the SEC Defensive Player Of The Year Award,DE/LB Markus Golden. The returning senior is primed for a big year. Last year he broke onto the scene and made for a great 3rd man in the pass rushing rotation behind Ealy and Sam. With 55 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and an interception returned for a touchdown he was already an impact player last year.
These two players play with such a furocity and speed that it would be nearly impossible for them to not keep the Tiger defensive front productive and dangerous. Look for big things from Shane Ray and Markus Golden in the 2014 season as they are in position to stuff the stat sheet with sacks and tackles for loss which just so happen to be a great recipet for winning.