2012 Pre-Season Position Preview: Linebacker

The Missouri Tigers hit pre-season camp in less then a week and ShowMeMizzou.com continues the countdown with a detailed look at the 2012 Mizzou linebacking corps that will play such an important role in their season and entry into the SEC.

Heading into 2012, Missouri returns three linebackers with fairly extensive starting experience, including seniors Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden, and junior Andrew Wilson.

Ebner's made 15 career starts for the Tigers in 37 games played, and has made 149 career total tackles.  Ebner has always been known as a hard-hitter in run support.  Last fall, and again this spring, Ebner has demonstrated significantly improved pass coverage skills, as well.

Gooden has started all 26 games over the past two seasons, and he has garnered 195 total tackles and 4 interceptions during his Missouri career.  Gooden is one of Missouri's fastest players.  His testing numbers have been off the charts, with a forty time in the low 4.3s, and a more than 40" vertical.  I'm looking forward to Gooden's senior year in the hopes that his on-the-field production will measure up to his outstanding athleticism.

Wilson is another big hitter, who led the team with 98 total tackles a year ago, despite being the linebacker who usually came off of the field when the Tigers went to their nickel and dime personnel packages.   He has 12 career starts under his belt, and he has played in all 26 games for the Tigers over the past two seasons.  Wilson's not going to test like Gooden, but he's just an extremely productive player on the field.

Projected LB Depth

25 Zaviar Gooden   6'2" 230 (S)
12 Darvin Ruise  6'1"  240  (So) 
39 Brandon Durant  6'0"  220 (RSF)

41 Donavin Newsom  6'2"  220  (F)

11 Torey Boozer  6'3"  210  (F)

50 Denzel Martin  5'10"  230  (J)

32 Will Ebner  6'0" 230 (S)
8   Donovan Bonner  6'1"  240  (J)
36 Jared Parham  6'2" 230 (So)

58 Michael Scherer  6'3"  230  (F)
54 Michael Brennan  6'3" 220 (So)

48 Andrew Wilson  6'3" 235 (J)
38 Kentrell Brothers  6'1"  230 (RSF) 
40 Clarence Green  6'0"  220  (RSF)
33 Marcus Golden  6'3"  230  (RSSo)

29 Mark Carpenter  6'0"  225 (RSF)

43 Justin Alderton  5'11"  205  (RSF)

At the level of the second-team defense, heading into fall camp, I think we'll see the trio of junior Donovan Bonner, red-shirt freshman Kentrell Brothers, and sophomore Darvin Ruise.  Bonner saw limited action at linebacker a year ago, and he and Ruise played extensively on special teams.

Bonner, who begins camp as Missouri's number four linebacker, can play any of the three linebacker positions.  He was very impressive this spring, as he routinely made plays all over the field.   Despite his relative lack of experience, I think that Bonner is quite capable.

Entering fall camp, Ruise is the next in line.  He's an impressive athlete, who really came on at the end of the spring.  I'm looking forward to seeing Ruise's continued progress this fall.

That's the extent of Missouri linebackers with game experience.  There's considerable young talent behind those five, but after you get past Missouri's trio of veteran starters, and Bonner, who appears to be ready, there's Ruise, who appears that he may be ready, and several talented, but untried youngsters.

Chief among that number is RSF Kentrell Brothers, a physical linebacker, who displays a nose for the football, and who has good ball skills, and good instincts on the football field.   He's going to continue to develop into a quality linebacker, and I expect him to see the field this year, at least on special teams.

Durant, Parham, and Green will likely begin fall camp working with the number three defense.  They will immediately be challenged by junior college transfer, Marcus Golden, and the incoming freshmen, Newsom, Scherer, and Boozer.

It's here on the back end of the Depth Chart where the competition is the keenest, and where the number of quality LB prospects portends future quality depth at the position.

Barring injuries, I expect that the starters will retain their jobs, and it appears that Bonner is pretty well established as the next guy in.  Beyond that, the competition for spots is more wide open.  The Depth Chart dynamics at LB will be very interesting to watch during fall camp.

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