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April 23, 2011

What we learned: D-Line

Missouri just finished up spring football on Saturday. Over the previous few weeks, PowerMizzou.com was at every Tiger practice. Over the next few days, we will outline what we learned at every position on the field. Today, we continue with the defensive line.

Is it possible to lose a first round NFL Draft pick and have that position actually improve? Missouri's defensive ends certainly made a case it could happen this spring.

With Aldon Smith gone, Brad Madison stepped into his spot and was nothing less than the best player on the field from the start of spring ball to the end. Jacquies Smith is a known commodity on the other side.

But even more than the starters, it is the depth at defensive end that stood out. Kony Ealy became a star similar to what Smith did two years ago in spring ball. He will most definitely be in the rotation. Michael Sam was a solid contributor last year and will be again this season. And Brayden Burnett had a standout spring at times as well. Bottom line, defensive end is the deepest position on the Tiger team. Sure, it would be nice to have Aldon Smith back, but the Tigers don't have many worries even without him.

On the interior, there are more questions. Terrell Resonno had a good spring and solidified himself as a starter. Dominique Hamilton missed much of spring camp with an injury, but should be able to work himself back atop the depth chart over the next few months.

Marvin Foster was perhaps the player who showed the most improvement throughout the spring and should figure into the rotation along with redshirt freshman Lucas Vincent. Jimmy Burge entered the spring as a starter, but appeared to have slipped down the depth chart by the end.

And, of course, this all ignores the most prevalent question on the defensive line: Just how good will Sheldon Richardson be assuming he makes it to campus in June?

Opinions are varied on that answer, but Richardson was one of the top five high school players in the country two years ago. If he makes it to Mizzou and shows up in shape, he could most definitely be a major factor from day one. Make no mistake, this question will be second only to the quarterback spot in terms of attention this fall.

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