Heading into Spring Football, ShowMeMizzou.com previews Missouri’s LB position. Missouri returns 5 LBs with game experience, although only 2 of those have played extensively at the LB position, while the other 3 have seen some action at LB, and have played more extensively on special teams. In addition, there are 2 red-shirt freshmen LBs, and a true freshman LB, to add to the competition this spring.
Job one this spring for Coach Steckel is to continue to develop all of his young LBs, and to identify his top three LBs and figure out how to get them on the field together. Then, it becomes about identifying Missouri’s number four LB, number five LB, and so on.
It looks like junior Kentrell Brothers will slide over into the middle, and begin the spring as the Tigers’ first-team MLB. Brothers is the Tigers’ top returning LB, and since he can play any of the 3 LB positions, he gives Coach Steckel the flexibility to move him around and try to get Missouri’s 3 best LBs on the field together. I’m not sure that Brothers’ move into the middle is permanent. That will depend on how he does there, but maybe even more on how the rest of the LB picture comes together. I think he is the one LB of whom it’s safe to say that he will be in the starting line-up for the Tigers.
The immediate impact of moving Brothers over to MLB is that the Tigers can then begin the spring with senior Darvin Ruise lined up with the first-team defense at his familiar position of WLB.
The next 2 LBs in line will likely begin the spring in direct competition for the starting job at the SLB position. Junior Clarence Green and sophomore Donavin Newsom have each played both OLB positions during their time at Missouri, and I’d expect to see each of them possibly taking reps this spring at the WLB, as well as at the SLB.
I expect that Newsom will win a starting job this spring. Along with Brothers, Newsom is one of Missouri’s best LBs in coverage. And, when he does move up into the top 3 LBs, I think it’s just a matter of time before Newsom would switch places with Ruise. That would have Newsom at the WLB and Ruise at the SLB. We’ll see. That will all be decided by the competition on the field, and it might not get settled until this fall. But, I think Newsom might be ready to step up this spring and begin to play to the level of his talent.
Like Newsom, Green could play at either OLB position.
The next LB in line as we head into the spring is sophomore Michael Scherer, who when last seen, was lining up in the middle behind Andrew Wilson. Scherer is another young LB who could make a move up to the number one unit. If Scherer proves himself to be one of Missouri’s top three LBs, he would most likely man the middle, although I think he could also play the SLB position for the Tigers.
Here’s my projection of what the Depth Chart at LB may look like at the beginning of the spring:
12 Darvin Ruise 6’1” 240 (S)
34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 220 (RSF)
43 Tanner Hull 6’0” 220 (So)
10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (J)
30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 235 (So)
38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 235 (RSF)
53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (So)
SLB 40 Clarence Green 6’0” 225 (J)
25 Donavin Newsom 6’2” 230 (So)
49 Denzel Martin 5’10” 230 (S)
4 Brandon Lee 6’3” 215 (F)
Burkett is another one who could play either OLB position. That’s probably also true of the newly arrived Brandon Lee, who has the physical tools to play all three LB positions for Missouri, although he’s certainly going to need to add some size.
It's likely that we’ll see Coach Steckel move guys around from position to position during the spring, partly to familiarize each of them with as many LB positions as possible, but also for the sake of evaluation, to see who can play where, and which combinations are more effective, as well. The more positions a LB can play, the better his chance to stay on the field, and the better it is for Missouri, as it allows Coach Steckel to get his best players on the field.