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NFL scouts high on Missouri defensive ends

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Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports
Missouri defensive end Markus Golden (33) has piqued the interest of NFL scouts.

Former Missouri defensive ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam upheld a high standard last year at a position that is typically a strong one for the Tigers, combining for 21 sacks and both being chosen in the NFL draft in May. But some NFL scouts apparently think even more highly of their backups.

This from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, commenting on his new starters at defensive end in Markus Golden and Shane Ray: "They were dominant players a year ago. I had some NFL scouts come in and say, 'Those two guys are pretty good, but the two behind them, shoot, they might be better. Don't tell Kony and Michael I said that. ... I'll get a text or two tonight, probably," Pinkel joked.

Pinkel's comments were published in an audio file at missourinet.com.

Ealy was drafted in the second round, No. 60 overall, by the Carolina Panthers in May, while Sam was a seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams. Sam was cut on the last weekend of the preseason, but was later picked up as a practice-squad player by the Dallas Cowboys. The notion that Golden and Ray are better NFL prospects than Ealy and Sam isn't just talk, either. So far this season, they've shown plenty of production on the field, as well. Like Sam, both Golden and Ray are undersized for a typical NFL defensive end, particularly Ray (6-3, 245 pounds).

As Pinkel noted, Golden and Ray were a big part of Missouri's defense last year despite the presence of Ealy and Sam. The four rotated frequently, and Golden finished the season with 6.5 sacks.

The Tigers face UCF Saturday.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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