It’s going to be very interesting to observe the Missouri linebacker position during fall camp. The Tigers return one starter from a year ago, junior Kentrell Brothers, and he was injured throughout much of the spring. In addition, Brothers began the spring playing the middle linebacker position, after starting last year at the weak-side linebacker position. Reportedly, he’s fully recovered, and as the Tigers head into fall camp, he’s expected to be holding down one of the starting positions, either at the WLB, or at the MLB. According to the latest official Depth Chart, Brothers will start out at the WLB. If that sounds a little complicated, keep in mind that Brothers is the known quantity at linebacker for Missouri. The rest of the linebackers in the picture for Mizzou this fall tend toward being more unknown quantities.
But, don’t mistake unknown for unqualified, or unprepared, or for a lack of talent at the position. They just haven’t played a whole lot. In reality, the relative lack of experience at the position is offset by considerable talent.
Sophomore Michael Scherer will almost certainly begin fall camp as a starter. He’s currently listed as the starter in the middle. He can also play the strong-side linebacker position. With Brothers out for most of the spring, Scherer moved to the head of the class, and heading into fall camp, it appears to me that Brothers and Scherer are considered by the Missouri staff to be their top two linebackers. Scherer is a classic example of a player who has come to Missouri, gotten in Coach Ivey’s strength and conditioning program, and gotten bigger, stronger, and faster. He’s improved his speed and athleticism remarkably since his arrival at Missouri barely two years ago. In addition to having improved physically, Scherer plays with intelligence on the field, and as he gains experience, he’ll play even faster.
The latest Depth Chart lists sophomore Donavin Newsom as the third starting linebacker, at the SLB position. Newsom can also play the WLB, as he’s very good in coverage. He’s one of Missouri’s most athletic and talented linebackers. Like Brothers, he can probably play any of the three linebacker positions, so within just the top three linebackers, the Tigers have some flexibility at the position that adds to their overall depth.
The second-team linebackers, as listed on the latest official Depth Chart, are junior Clarence Green, red-shirt freshman Eric Beisel, and red-shirt freshman Joe Burkett. The second unit possesses almost as much flexibility as the first unit, as Green and Burkett can each play both outside linebacker positions, and Beisel can play in the middle, or at the SLB.
Green appears to be the best candidate from among those three to challenge for a starting job, although Beisel and Burkett are young players who show promise and really came on this spring.
Among the third-string LBs, senior Darvin Ruise would appear to be a candidate to move up the Depth Chart. Heading into fall camp, Ruise is one of Missouri’s more experienced LBs. Another third-stringer, true freshman Brandon Lee, who arrived in January, is an impressive-looking prospect, and is a candidate to possibly see the field this year.
With three true freshmen, two red-shirt freshmen, and two sophomores among their ten scholarship linebackers, the Tigers are young at the position. But, they’re also very talented. This is a unit that if they can stay healthy, will improve throughout the season.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart might look like at linebacker as the Tigers head into fall camp:
10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (J)
34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 218 (RSF)
12 Darvin Ruise 6’1” 240 (S)
53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (So)
48 Roderick Winters 5’11” 205 (F)
30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 235 (So)
38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 240 (RSF)
49 Denzel Martin 5’11” 230 (S)
32 Tanner Hull 6’0” 215 (RSF)
25 Donavin Newsom 6’2” 230 (So)
40 Clarence Green 6’0” 225 (J)
4 Brandon Lee 6’3” 215 (F)
15 Grant Jones 6’3” 225 (F)