August 17, 2008

New names emerge on defensive line

Multiple times throughout fall camp, Gary Pinkel has talked about the need to get Missouri's second-string players up to speed. At no spot are the Tigers perhaps searching more for the right combination of backups than the defensive line.

Three of the four starters from last year's line return and Jaron Baston has assumed the role held by Lorenzo Williams a year ago. The players behind that front four were somewhat of a question mark coming into camp. Not one of the second-stringers has played before. But Saturday's second scrimmage may have provided some answers.

"Since the first day of camp we've been struggling on the second team going against the first offense," said Terrell Resonno. "Every day we come out and try to improve. Today, I think we improved from our first scrimmage. I think we did pretty well today."

"This scrimmage, they really stepped it up," said starting end Stryker Sulak. "Earnhardt, Resonno, Dominique, Keck making big plays out there. He was on a lot of tackles. They know that they're going to be playing in a game so they're going to be counted on."

And it is that responsibility that has driven the backups so far in camp.

"Our goal is to be more accountable," Resonno said. "If Ziggy goes down, I need him to trust me that I can make plays in a game."

While the backups are trying to close the gap between themselves and the starters, they are getting a little push of their own. Freshman defensive ends Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith both saw some snaps with the second team on Saturday.

"Both those freshmen, Malbrough and Jacquies, the talent that they have, they're going to be huge I think. They play hard every down, they're never tired. That's something you can't really teach and it's something they came in with," Sulak said. "It's not my decision, but if they keep producing out on the practice field, I think we could see them out on the field."

Throw the freshmen into growing mix on the line. Less than two weeks remain till the opener and it looks like there are still some things to be sorted out.

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