Missouri handles loss of Brantley after injury, prepares for season opener

A new defensive coordinator, the loss of their best defensive end, a young team -- it’s all in the rearview for Mizzou starting this Saturday.

Missouri released its depth chart for the opening game against Southeast Missouri on Monday. Four months ago, that chart would have looked a lot different.

Then June 21 happened.

Brantley, the poised leader-to-be of “D-Line Zou” was staying at Simon’s apartment over the summer in Columbia. Brantley left the house that morning, and nobody had heard from him all day, an odd occurrence in the tight-knit group of guys. Struck by this, Simon shot him a text.

“What’s up?”

A minute later, his phone buzzed. It wasn’t Brantley. It was Barry Odom. Harold had been in a bad accident.

“My heart dropped,” Simon recalled. “It started racing, and I was really nervous. I told the guys I was with, and we raced over to the hospital as quick as we could.”

This wasn’t just a teammate or a friend or some guy that was shacking at a buddy’s apartment. This was a brother. Pinkel’s family philosophy is well known, and there’s no better example than the brotherhood Simon describes. They fight for one another, on and off the field.

It surprised Simon when he first came on campus. He was recruited to play football, but what he found at MU was more than a football team. As a senior, this is his fourth year playing with a Tiger on his helmet. That’s four years of two-a-days, four years of 6 a.m. workouts, four years of team meals and rap battles after practice and stupid road trip pranks.

He was asked what surprised him the most of Missouri. What did he not expect coming in as a fiery-eyed freshman safety from Mansfield, Texas?

“The brotherhood,” Simon said. “Coach Pinkel talked about family all the time. This is it.”

Joining that defensive brotherhood this year is freshman Terry Beckner Jr., the five-star recruit from East St. Louis High School. Ranked second overall in the class of 2015, the expectations for the 298-pound defensive lineman are understandably high.

He showed potential in fall camps, earning a second string spot at defensive tackle behind junior Josh Augusta. Regardless, Beckner will see playing time.

“Physically, he’s been blessed with a lot of ability,” Odom said. “He’s learned the schematics. He’s been the guy that’s worked to get in shape and adjust to the speed of the game.”

Right ahead of Beckner, weighing fewer and fewer pounds by the day, is Josh Augusta. The junior wants to get to 335 pounds by Saturday’s opening game, a drastic loss from the 360 pounds he weighed in at points this summer.

The secret formula: more fish and more grilled chicken.

Oh, and less Pita Pit.

His teammates call him “Juggernaut,” but even the Juggernaut can afford to slim down a little. Augusta isn’t worried about the nickname losing meaning as he loses weight. The more fat he sheds, the more offensive linemen he can do the same to.

His teammates agree.

“Have you seen the kid?” Scherer asked. “I don’t know who’s going to stand in the way of him … He’s a freak. So we get him to lose a few pounds and we’ll get him a little angry.”

Scherer said he might call Augusta some names before Saturday’s game, because when Josh Augusta gets angry, watch out. He can throw those 335 pounds around. According to Scherer, he’s never seen Augusta lose a one-on-one drill. Not once.

The Tigers will hope that continues as Missouri begins the season.

Articles have been written, stories filed, tweets sent out about expectations on this 2015 Missouri team. Come 3 p.m. at Faurot Field, none of that matters. This defense is pumped. It gets monotonous battling teammates in simulated situations.

In fall camp, second-string nose guard A.J. Logan said it best.

“I’m excited, man,” he smiled. “I’m a football player.”

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