MIzzou DE Charles Harris could be next man up to represent "D-Line Zou"

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HOOVER, ALABAMA - Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy, Markus Golden, and Shane Ray. 

Since 2011, Missouri football has had five defensive lineman selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, strengthening the "D-Line Zou" reputation that the Missouri program powers itself on. 

Junior Defensive Lineman Charles Harris could be the sixth. 

Following a 2015 season in which he led the Southeastern Conference in tackles for loss (18.5), and the team in sacks (7.0), Harris is receiving recognition from around the country before the 2016 season begins. He was selected to both the Bednarik and Nagurksi award watch lists, given to the best defensive player in college football. At SEC Media Days last week, Harris was voted to the preseason All-SEC second team, the only Tiger to be voted to the preseason all-conference team. 

"I had to look up those awards," Harris said. "I had to look them up and see what they actually meant. It's kind of 'embarassing', but at the same time its kind of fun not knowing exactly what's going on. It's just another award I can strive to achieve."

The Tigers finished last year at 5-7, just short of a third straight bowl berth. Despite the early end to the season, Missouri finished as one of the best defenses in college football, ranking 6th in total defense. Harris will be looked at as a leader of a defense that returns almost its entire front seven. 

"I want him to be him," said new head coach Barry Odom. "We've talked a number of times on, you know, you do carry a heavy weight on your shoulders on being really good."

"For the most part, there's no extra pressure," Harris said. "It's just another season, another game. If I don't perform, I don't perform. I'm not going to beat myself up for that. And not anything else or anyone else." 

The tradition of "D-Line Zou" is something Harris holds very close, understanding how important having that pipeline can be to the development of his game and others. 

"Markus Golden, that's my big brother. said Harris. "Shane, that's my big brother too. We had Michael, we had Kony, you had Markus, you had Shane. They didn't have anyone else to look up to. Now that we already have those guys that's already there in the league who have experience, it's really our duty to take advantage of that." 

Pro Football Focus and Sports Illustrated project Harris to be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Another big season will keep him rising on many draft boards. 

"Charles is a freak." said Senior Linebacker Michael Scherer. "If you thought what he did last year was good, you're going to be excited to see him this year."