One of Missouri's best players is junior WLB Zaviar Gooden 6'2" 225, a 2010 All-Big 12 Honorable mention as a sophomore, who has been named to a pair of individual award pre-season watch lists, including the Pre-Season Watch Lists for the Bednarik Award, and for the Nagurski Trophy.
Projected Pre-season Linebacker Depth Chart
25 Zaviar Gooden 6'2" 225 (J)
12 Darvin Ruise 6'2" 225 (RSF)
34 Tony Randolph 5'11" 220 (So)
39 Brandon Durant 6'1" 205 (F)
32 Will Ebner 6'1" 230 (S)
33 Luke Lambert 6'3" 230 (S)
36 Jared Parham 6'2" 225 (RSF)
38 Kentrell Brothers 6'1" 215 (F)
48 Andrew Wilson 6'3" 230 (So)
15 Donovan Bonner 6'2" 235 (So)
54 Michael Brennan 6'3" 220 (RSF)
40 Clarence Green 6'0" 195 (F)
In 2010, Gooden led Missouri with 85 tackles, while having a hand in 5 turnovers, including 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. Look for Gooden to have another big year.
Missouri's second-best LB this spring was sophomore Andrew Wilson 6'3" 230, who's listed as the starter at the SLB position, heading into camp. Wilson was brilliant, making plays all over the field this spring, as he held down the first-team MLB position throughout spring practice. In 2010, Wilson saw action in all 13 games, including 3 starts, and finished the year strong, recording 42 tackles as a RSF.
A pair of seniors who missed almost all of the spring, after struggling through injury-plagued 2010 seasons, are listed one-two at MLB, heading into fall camp. Will Ebner 6'1" 230 and Luke Lambert 6'3" 230 have each recovered from their injuries, and they provide Missouri with considerable playing experience in the middle. This is going to make for some interesting competition this fall, as Ebner and Lambert battle it out for a starting spot. Another facet of the LB competition is where Will Wilson play? Does he stay on the outside, or does he man the middle? We'll also be interested in seeing which LB comes off of the field in passing situations, when the Tigers insert an extra DB.
A pair of talented youngsters, each of whom begin fall camp listed on the second-team defense, RSF WLB Darvin Ruise 6'2" 225 and sophomore SLB Donovan Bonner 6'2" 235, will be in the mix, as well. Bonner missed all of 2010 with a knee injury, after seeing action, mostly on special teams, as a true freshman, in 2009.
Ruise is a talented, physical specimen, who has spent his first year at Missouri learning the LB position. One of the questions that I'll be watching for an answer is how quickly will the fleet-footed Ruise learn to play the position at full speed?
Entering camp, the third-team defense has RSF MLB Jared Parham 6'2" 225 flanked on either side by a pair of walk-ons, in sophomore WLB Tony Randolph 5'11" 220, and RSF Michael Brennan 6'3" 220.
The depth chart is completed by an exciting trio of freshmen, in WLB Brandon Durant 6'1" 205, MLB Kentrell Brothers 6'1" 215, and SLB Clarence Green 6'0" 195. I'm looking forward to getting a look at this group of speedsters! It will be interesting to see how quickly these talented freshmen are able to move up the depth chart, and if any of them can get onto the field this year.
Pre-Season Analysis:It does not appear that Coach Pinkel has had a faster, or more talented group of LBs during his time at Missouri. There's a lot of youth, but also ample experience, especially at the top of the depth chart. Gooden may be Coach Pinkel's most talented LB to date, and the physical, play making Wilson looks like Coach Pinkel's premier MLB, thus far.
Much like the defensive line, the Tigers return some talented veterans in the linebacker corps. They also have some talented, athletic youth to bring to the mix as well.
During summer 7 on 7 work both Luke Lambert and Will Ebner ran well and showed no signs of injury which bothered them last season.
Zaviar Gooden looks poised for a breakout season which could put him among the country's elite linebackers and help position him for a future in the NFL.