Coming into the 2014 season, some had expressed concern that Missouri would have a hard time replacing the senior linebackers from the year before. As it turned out, their concerns were unfounded.
With junior Kentrell Brothers in his second season as the starting WLB, the Tigers were in good shape at that critical position. In 2014, Brothers played well, at times, but he didn’t really get to the level I was hoping for. I was hoping for a very, very high level of play from Brothers. What he delivered was a very good year.
In 2014, Brothers led Missouri with 122 total tackles. He also had 5 tackles-for-loss, a sack, 2 QB hurries, 4 pass-break-ups, and he forced 3 fumbles. He was a very productive cog in what was Missouri’s best defense to date under Head Coach Gary Pinkel, the 2014 SEC Coach of the Year. Following the season, Brothers was named Second-Team All-SEC (AP).
Sophomore LB Michael Scherer took over in the middle, and in his first year as the starter at middle linebacker, he was outstanding! And, Scherer just continued to get better throughout the season. He finished 2014 with 114 total tackles, including 3.5 TFLs, and 0.5 sacks, to go along with 2 QBHs, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. Since his arrival on campus more than 2 years ago, Scherer has gotten bigger, stronger, and faster. And as the season went along, he played faster, and he made fewer mistakes. Scherer has become as good a middle linebacker as Missouri’s had under Coach Pinkel, and he might just be the best one yet.
Missouri had four other LBs who played significantly at the LB position during the 2014 season. When the Tigers were in their base defense, sophomore Donavin Newsom and junior Clarence Green each split time at the strong-side LB position.
And, Missouri rotated in with their second-string linebackers for a significant number of plays throughout the season, so back-up MLB Eric Beisel and back-up WLB Darvin Ruise each saw game action at their respective linebacker positions.
Newsom finished the season with 24 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs. He also had 3 QBHs, a PBU, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Newsom got better as the season went along, although he continued to get sucked inside and lose outside contain against the run. Really, almost all of the long runs that Missouri gave up in 2014 were the result of an outside linebacker getting sucked inside and losing outside contain. Newsom wasn’t the only culprit, although the talented sophomore was one of the more frequent offenders in this regard.
He split time with Green, who finished the season with 18 tackles and 1 QBH. Early in the season, Green and Newsom were listed as co-starters, and their reps were pretty evenly split between them. But as the season went along, Newsom claimed control of the position, and Green’s reps diminished, to the point where he was playing significantly fewer plays, similarly to the other back-ups, Beisel and Ruise.
For a back-up, Ruise had a very productive season, with 27 tackles, 1 PBU, and an interception that he returned 46 yards for a TD. Like so many seniors at Missouri, his last season was his best.
Beisel, a red-shirt freshman seeing his first game action, was also very production for a back-up, with 19 tackles, and 0.5 TFL.
Two other Missouri LBs saw limited game action, primarily on special teams or in mop-up duty. Red-shirt freshman Joe Burkett made 1 tackle on the season. And senior Denzel Martin made a tackle to cap off his farewell tour.
Overall, this linebacker corps was as good as any that Coach Pinkel’s had at Missouri, certainly his most-talented group of LBs, and maybe the best group of LBs Missouri’s had under Coach Pinkel. Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart looked like at LB this season for the Tigers:
WLB 10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (J) 12 Darvin Ruise 6’1” 240 (S) 34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 218 (RSF) 53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (So) 48 Roderick Winters 5’11” 222 (F)
MLB 30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 230 (So) 38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 235 (RSF) 49 Denzel Martin 5’11” 230 (S) 32 Tanner Hull 6’0” 215 (RSF)