Coming into the spring, Missouri returned one starting LB, and one other LB with significant game experience. To begin the spring, Coach Steckel had moved junior Kentrell Brothers into the middle. Senior Darvin Ruise was listed as the starter on the weak side, but from the outset of the spring, it was sophomore Donavin Newsom who was taking the first-team reps at that WLB spot, and who was teamed up with Brothers as the first-team LBs in the nickel. The starter on the strong side was sophomore Michael Scherer.
Well, that didn't last long, as Brothers was injured early on, and he spent the rest of the spring watching and encouraging and instructing his teammates. When Brothers went out, Scherer moved into the middle, and he began working with the first team in the nickel, as well. It was about that time that Scherer was really taking off! He had made tremendous physical gains in the off-season, and he had absolutely killed it in the pre-spring testing, posting a number of personal bests, including a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, to go along with a 38" vertical jump, a 4.1-second 5-10-5 shuttle, and maximum lifts of 415 pounds in the bench press, and 610 pounds in the squat. Whether Scherer, who was named the Most-Improved LB this spring, ends up playing in the middle or on the strong side, he appears to have come out of the spring, along with Brothers, who will be back in time for fall camp, as one of Missouri's top two LBs.
Newsom, too, was injured during the spring, but he continued to try to play through his injury. However, it was affecting his play, and he was taking more and more reps with the second-team defense. Finally, Newsom was shut down, and he had surgery to repair his shoulder labrum. Newsom, too, will be back in time for fall camp. I'm not really sure where he finished up on the Depth Chart, since he didn't really finish. When last seen at near full strength, he was one or two on the weak side. I think it's safe to say that once he returns to health, Newsom will certainly be among those competing for a starting job.
Stec was shifting guys around at LB, and the injuries to two of his top LBs resulted in even more shifting around. By the end of the spring, it had resulted in several LBs having gotten the opportunity to play with the first or second-team defense, and that allowed for several LBs to develop, and to demonstrate that they're closer to being ready to play.
While I'm not sure that the Tigers were able to identify their starters at the LB position, they did accomplish the goal this spring of developing depth, and of getting a number of LBs ready, or close to being ready, to play.
Besides Brothers, Scherer, Newsom, and Ruise, two LBs who ended up seeing extended action with the first two units this spring are junior Clarence Green and red-shirt freshman Eric Beisel. Green saw action on the strong side, as well as on the weak side. And he finished up playing with Scherer in the first-team nickel package. Beisel spent the spring working as the second-team MLB, and he continued to improve throughout the spring. Toward the end of the spring, Beisel appeared to be getting close to being ready to play.
Another red-shirt freshmen who is getting close to being ready to play is Joe Burkett, who early in the spring moved from the weak side to the strong side, and who toward the end of the spring, was showing very well at that position. Beisel and Burkett each demonstrate a nose for the football, and their athleticism allows them to do a good job in space.
True freshman Brandon Lee arrived at Missouri in January, and he spent the spring working at the SLB, where he progressed rather quickly, and demonstrated impressive athleticism. Lee needs to get bigger, but he's a mature young man who will continue to progress quickly.
Once Brothers and Newsom are back on the field, there will probably be another round of shuffling before Stec decides who will start alongside of Brothers this fall. Coming out of the spring, it would appear that Scherer is the most likely to earn a starting job. Beyond those two, there's a handful of LBs who are in the running for a starting job.
40 Clarence Green 6'0" 225 (J)
12 Darvin Ruise 6'1" 240 (S)
53 Christian Williams 6'0" 235 (So)
25 Donavin Newsom 6'2" 230 (So) (injured)
30 Michael Scherer 6'3" 235 (So)
38 Eric Beisel 6'3" 240 (RSF)
49 Denzel Martin 5'11" 230 (S)
10 Kentrell Brothers 6'1" 240 (J) (injured)
34 Joe Burkett 6'2" 218 (RSF)
4 Brandon Lee 6'3" 215 (F)
32 Tanner Hull 6'0" 215 (RSF)