No. 21 Mizzou hoping for another strong D-line
The Missouri Tigers aren't concerned about a rebuilding year for the defensive line, even after losing Aldon Smith.
Smith, picked seventh overall in the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers, missed three games last year with a broken right leg, but served as an anchor for a group that ranked first in the Big 12 and sixth nationally in scoring defense.
The line still figures to be a strength for the No. 21 Tigers heading into Saturday's opener against Miami of Ohio.
''This defensive line has the potential to be really good,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ''And we all know that if you can be good up front, it gives you an opportunity to be good in the rest of your defense.''
End Brad Madison was a standout last year even though he made only two starts, and has been selected preseason All-Big 12. Madison had a three-sack game while Smith was out and led the team with 7 1/2 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Last year's experience for Madison figures to ease the transition to being a full-time starter. He said he's always prepared as if he were going to start.
''When Aldon went down, I had to step up in the starting role for a couple games there,'' Madison said. ''So I know what to expect. I've just got to do it.''
End Jacquies Smith also is an early candidate for the Lombardi Award and a preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection. Smith had 10 tackles for a loss, 5 1/2 sacks and two interceptions last season.
''We played a lot together last year,'' Smith said. ''We lost a great player, but I think we'll be able to fill the role. And we'll go out there and perform to the best of our abilities.''
Sheldon Richardson is a backup behind Terrell Resonno. Richardson, who originally committed to Missouri in 2009, was cleared academically by the NCAA in mid-August. He is playing catch-up and also has been hampered by a sprained ankle.
Tackle Dominique Hamilton should be an important part of the defense against the run. In seven games last year before Hamilton broke his right ankle, Missouri allowed an average of 114 yards rushing. In the Tigers' final six games, that number jumped to 197 yards.
Hamilton likes the camaraderie.
''We've got a good bond, I guess you could say,'' Hamilton said. ''My redshirt freshman year, sophomore year, I couldn't say that, I couldn't say that at all.''