During the spring, it became evident that the Missouri Tigers are pretty well set at the linebacker position. Each of the starting linebackers, Zaviar Gooden, Will Ebner, and Andrew Wilson, performed well throughout the spring, and the starting unit remained unchanged from the start to the end of spring football. Ebner looked as good in coverage this spring as I've seen him.
Still, one of the most productive linebackers on the field during the spring was not a starter. Back-up middle linebacker Donovan Bonner was very impressive this spring, and he routinely made plays all over the field. Bonner appears to be fulfilling the promise that we saw three years ago, when he was a special teams standout as a freshman.
Prior to the Spring Game, I would have said that Bonner, who can play any of the three linebacker positions, was the clear-cut #4 LB, but that was before Darvin Ruise had a sensational performance that day, as he and Bonner were two big reasons that the second-stringers defeated the starters. Bonner returned an interception for a TD, and Ruise ran down each of Missouri's top two backs from behind to make touchdown-saving tackles. I knew Ruise was fast, but he showed off some real speed that afternoon in running down a pair of speedsters in Marcus Murphy and Kendial Lawrence. Bonner's hold on that #4 LB spot remains solid, but maybe Ruise is ready to blossom into the LB that his athletic ability portends.
This spring, the #6 LB was Kentrell Brothers, and he was impressive throughout the spring. Brothers is a physical linebacker, who displays a nose for the football, and who has good ball skills, and good instincts on the football field. He spent the spring working at the SLB, where he quickly ascended to the second unit. He's going to continue to develop into a quality linebacker.
Clarence Green made some progress during his first spring at Missouri, after missing quite a bit of time due to injury last fall. He's still considerably undersized for the linebacker position. A pair of young linebackers, Brandon Durant, and Michael Brennan, were each limited throughout the spring by injury. And, Jared Parham had his moments this spring, as well.
With multiple linebackers arriving this summer as part of Missouri's 2012 recruiting class, the competition for those third-team spots will heat up this fall.