Missouri has a few holes to replace in the front seven in spring practice, but none will be as difficult to replace as likely first-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson, who declared for the NFL draft after a stellar junior season.
Richardson benefited from playing in the SEC more than any of his Tigers teammates did last year, and received extra notoriety and attention as a result of playing in the nation’s premier football conference. He has positioned himself to be among the first 20 picks in April’s draft.
After transferring to Missouri from Junior College, Richardson developed into the prototypical three-technique defensive tackle. He had a solid performance at the NFL Combine earlier this week, running a 5.02 40-yard dash and bench pressing 225-pounds 30 times showcasing both his speed and his strength.
As great as it is for Missouri to send its players to the NFL, finding a replacement for Richardson is going to be an awfully daunting task for Gary Pinkel’s squad.
The first crack at earning the vacant spot left by Richardson likely will go to Lucas Vincent. The rising junior is 6-foot-2 and 295-pounds, and is built very much in the same mold as Richardson. However, despite playing in 25 games over the last two seasons, he has only produced 15 tackles. By comparison, Richardson has 18.5 tackles for loss in 24 games to go along with his 112 tackles — 75 coming in 2012.
If Vincent doesn’t impress during spring practice and in the summer, then don’t be surprised if true freshman Josh Augusta (Peoria, Il. Peoria) gets an opportunity to earn a spot in the defensive tackle rotation. Augusta was the crown jewel of the recruiting class this year, and the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle will earn a starting spot this season — it’s a matter of when he secures the spot, not if at this point.
No matter who fills the void left by Richardson, he will be hard-pressed to fill his shoes in the middle of the defensive line. However, the sooner Augusta is in the lineup, the greater I like his chances of being in the same position that Richardson currently finds himself in.
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