Daily Focus: Analyzing key dismissals at Missouri, Auburn and Notre Dame
Every week day in “Daily Focus,” Pro Football Focus looks at the top college football storylines and explains what they mean from a PFF perspective.
Missouri defensive line loses two top players: As college camps open around the country, news is piling in about players who will not be playing football this season. It was reported yesterday that Missouri defensive tackle Harold Brantley and defensive end Walter Brady were both dismissed from the team, Brantley for academics and Brady for a violation of team rules. It’s a huge blow for Missouri’s defensive line that has become an annual staple as one of the nation’s best units.
Brantley missed all of last season as well after a car crash in June led to numerous injuries, but Missouri was hoping he’d be on the field and back to his 2014 form this season. He was the Tigers’ top interior pass rusher that season, grading at +13.1 with five sacks, nine QB hits, and 20 hurries on his 374 rushes while playing 65.1 percent of Missouri’s snaps. As for Brady, he played 524 snaps last season as a redshirt freshman, showing well in the run game at +7.1 while adding eight sacks, one QB hit, and 15 hurries on his 258 rushes.
Missouri has had seven defensive linemen play at least 230 snaps in each of the last two seasons, so losing Brantley and Brady will force them to tap even further into their depth. A strong defensive line rotation is crucial for success in the SEC and the departure of both players puts even more pressure on defensive end Charles Harris (No. 13 player in PFF College 101) and defensive tackle Terry Beckner, JR (No. 9 breakout player for 2016).
Auburn running back Jovon Robinson dismissed from program: Dismissal Season hit Auburn as well as senior running back Jovon Robinson is no longer with the program. One of the top junior college prospects in 2015, Robinson played only 165 snaps last season but he was outstanding down the stretch, finishing with 639 yards on the ground on 117 carries and an impressive +9.1 rush grade. With RB Peyton Barber moving on, Robinson was expected to take a large percentage of the carries this season, a move that was already in process with his strong play over the last few weeks of the season.
The running back load will now fall to Kerryon Johnson and incoming true freshmen Malik Miller and Kam Martin. Even more damaging to Auburn’s depth, RB Roc Thomas transferred after spring practice after grading at +4.5 on 218 snaps the last two years as a movable run/pass option.
Johnson is the only running back with prior experience on the roster and he’s coming off a 184-snap true freshman campaign that saw him grade at +5.1 overall with 208 yards on his 52 carries.
If there’s one silver lining for Auburn, last year at this time, Barber had 10 carries to his name and he broke out as a senior to rush for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns. Head coach Gus Malzahn’s system uses a lot of misdirection and deception that puts running backs in position to succeed, and his ability to move the ball on the ground regardless of his running backs will be tested more than ever this season.
Notre Dame tight end depth takes a big hit: The last of the key dismissals goes to Notre Dame, who lose tight end Alize Jones due to academics. The tight end position was not a huge part of the Irish offense last year as they used 11 personnel (one running back, three wide receivers, one tight end) 80 percent of the time (NCAA average is 46 percent). The wide receiver-heavy offense is expected to use the tight end more often with the loss of four of its top five receivers either moving to the NFL, graduating, or retiring. Those plans took a big hit with the loss of Jones who caught 13 passes for 190 yards last season. He caught most of his passes on short “stick” routes where he did a nice job turning short routes into bigger plays with strong work after the catch (averaged 7.8 yards after the catch per reception). Notre Dame was planning on featuring Jones more in the passing game as his athleticism and 6-foor-4, 240-pound frame make him a difficult cover for opposing defenses.
The loss of Jones leaves Notre Dame thin at tight end though Nic Weishar (300 snaps), Tyler Luatua (212), Chase Hounshell (188) and Durham Smythe (157) all saw time at the position last season. However none of these tight ends graded positively in their limited time in 2015, and they’ve provided little production as a group in the passing game. If one of the remaining four tight ends is unable to step up in fall practice, it may be another year of 11 personnel as the Irish look to develop a depleted group of pass catchers.