Heading into fall camp, ShowMeMizzou.com takes a look at Missouri’s linebacker position.
The Tigers’ LB corps is anchored in the middle by senior Andrew Wilson, who led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons while playing at the SLB (strong-side) position, where he would typically come off of the field when Missouri went to a nickel or dime personnel package in passing situations. Playing in the middle allows Wilson to be in on every play, and ultimately to hit more people, which is what he loves to do. One of the things that I really like about Wilson is the way that he comes across and attacks the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t wait for ball carriers to come to him. He brings it to them.
Wilson is backed up and flanked by some pretty talented, but relatively inexperienced, players.
Following Spring Football, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel said, “We’ve got one of the best groups of linebackers we’ve ever had.”
To be sure, Wilson is one of the best middle linebackers of Coach Pinkel’s tenure at Missouri. Maybe THE best. In addition to having Wilson in the middle, I think what Coach Pinkel is citing in his statement about this linebacker corps is the level of their talent. It is a very talented group.
And, the guys at the top of the depth chart are not completely void of experience. Fifth-year senior Donovan Bonner comes into fall camp listed as the starter at Wilson’s old spot on the strong side, but he’s played some at all three LB positions during his time at Missouri. He is Missouri’s second-most experienced LB. And, he’s been pretty good during his Missouri career. He’s especially shown well on special teams, where he’s been a leading tackler. In addition, he’s forced 6 fumbles thus far during his career, including 4 forced fumbles a year ago, when he made two starts and saw quite a bit of action at LB. Like Wilson, he’s a big hitter, a physical player who runs very well. In fact, he’s faster than he was before he tore his ACL heading into the 2010 season.
After Wilson and Bonner, there’s not much playing experience among Missouri’s talented group of linebackers.
Junior Darvin Ruise is listed at the other top spot as we head into fall camp. He remains in a very close competition for that starting spot with sophomore Kentrell Brothers, with whom Ruise was splitting first-team reps at the conclusion of the spring. Ruise is very athletic and runs well. Brothers is another talented athlete who is very good in coverage and who has shown a nose for the football.
Wilson’s back-up, Michael Scherer, is a fast riser, and he is a strong candidate to see some time at LB this season. During the off-season, the red-shirt freshman improved himself considerably from a physical standpoint, and that has just carried over onto the field. In particular, Scherer has improved significantly in pass coverage. He’s a smart, physical player, and he’s a hard worker. Right now, he looks like the heir apparent to Wilson in the middle.
Behind Ruise and Brothers is another RSF in Donavin Newsom, an impressive young talent who is rapidly improving, but who like Scherer, has yet to see the field. Newsom is a very athletic player who runs very well.
Heading into fall camp, Clarence Green is listed behind Bonner. He's another inexperienced player, having played sparingly in just one game a year ago. During his two years at Missouri, the red-shirt sophomore has practiced at both outside linebacker positions.
True freshman Charles Harris is an exciting talent who will begin camp working at the SLB position. He's an impressive athlete who could end up playing defensive end.
Another young candidate in the middle is true freshman Eric Beisel, who may also potentially see time during his Missouri career at the Sam (SLB). I’m looking forward to seeing the big red-head on the practice field.
While the Tigers have a lot of talented young LBs, there's not much experienced depth at the position. Wilson and Bonner are solid, and there's enough talented players to provide ample competition for that third starting spot. As long as everyone stays healthy, this unit should be good.
WLB 12 Darvin Ruise 6'1" 240 (J) 10 Kentrell Brothers 6'1" 235 (So) 25 Donavin Newsom 6'2" 230 (RSF) 34 Joe Burkett 6'1" 210 (F) 43 Mike Holt 6'1" 210 (F)
MLB 48 Andrew Wilson 6'3" 235 (S) 30 Michael Scherer 6'3" 235 (RSF) 38 Eric Beisel 6'3" 235 (F) 49 Denzel Martin 5'10" 230 (S) 43 Tanner Hull 6'0" 215 (F)
8 Donovan Bonner 6'1" 240 (S) 40 Clarence Green 6'0" 225 (So) 54 Michael Brennan 6’2” 235 (S) 91 Charles Harris 6’3” 235 (F)