ShowMeMizzou.com continues our spring position previews with a look at the Missouri linebackers. The Tigers return all of their starting LBs from 2014, and it would appear that Missouri will open Spring Football with that same trio of starters.
Kentrell Brothers opens his final spring at Missouri as the returning two-year starter on the weak side. The senior comes into the spring with the expectations of building on what was for him a career year in 2014. Going all the way back to his recruitment by Missouri, Brothers was Coach Steckel’s guy. Now in his final season at Missouri, Brothers has a new position coach, in former Missouri linebacker Barry Odom, who also coached at Missouri from 2003-2011. Brothers is one of a handful of defensive players on the Missouri roster who were here when Coach Odom last coached the Missouri safeties, so he’s familiar with his new position coach and defensive coordinator.
Michael Scherer is also coming off of a terrific year in his first season as the starter at the middle linebacker position in Missouri’s 4-3 defense. In 2014, Scherer certainly exceeded expectations. In just his first season as a starter at Missouri, Scherer provided the Tigers with perhaps their best play at the MLB position of the Gary Pinkel era. The combination of Brothers and Scherer give Missouri a very strong pair of returning LBs. This spring, both will be looking to improve.
The third returning starting LB for Missouri is junior Donavin Newsom. Newsom is coming off of a sophomore campaign in which he gained experience and improved throughout the season. This spring, the talented Newsom will be looking to continue his improvement as a LB. Of particular note, Newsom needs to become more disciplined in consistently providing edge containment.
Missouri also returns another experienced LB in senior Clarence Green, who early last season was listed as a co-starter with Newsom on the strong-side, and who continued to split snaps with Newsom throughout the season. Like Newsom, Green can play either outside linebacker position for Coach Odom.
Scherer’s back-up a season ago, sophomore Eric Beisel, returns for his second spring having gained considerable valuable experience at the position. This spring, Beisel will provide a formidable challenge with respect to the starting job in what promises to be a very healthy level of competition for both players.
So this spring, Missouri returns 5 quality experienced LBs. Coach Odom can move some of those guys around to create depth at all three LB positions. Or, he can come up with a sixth LB who is ready to make a trusted contribution at one or more of the LB positions.
The prime candidate to move up onto the two-deep this spring is red-shirt freshman Brandon Lee, who up until about a month ago, was one of the very best LB prospects that Coach Pinkel had signed during his Missouri tenure. Even with the quality LB prospects that Missouri signed in 2015, Lee still ranks as one of the top handful of LB prospects that Coach Pinkel has signed during his 15 years at Missouri.
So, this spring is his time to begin to lay claim to at least a back-up job at one of the outside LB positions.
But I expect that sophomore Joe Burkett will probably begin the spring listed on the two-deep Depth Chart. So immediately, that creates some quality competition. Burkett was another Coach Steckel guy. This spring is his time to make a move and establish himself at the position.
It will be interesting to watch the LBs this spring, and to see if Coach Odom will continue to cross-train the Missouri LBs and have each of them learn as many of the three positions as they can. I suspect he will.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart at LB might look like at the beginning of the spring:
WLB 10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (S) 34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 218 (So) 53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (J) 48 Roderick Winters 5’11” 222 (RSF) 16 Brock Bondurant 6’2” 215 (J)
MLB 30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 230 (J) 38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 235 (So) 32 Tanner Hull 6’0” 215 (So) 45 Justin Piazza 6’2” 205 (So)
SLB 25 Donavin Newsom 6’2” 230 (J) 40 Clarence Green 6’0” 225 (S) 4 Brandon Lee 6’3” 215 (RSF) 15 Grant Jones 6’3” 225 (RSF)