This spring, Missouri returned all three of their starting linebackers. And this spring, the Missouri defense was dominant. Certainly, Missouri’s very capable linebacker corps played a large part in that dominance.
“Defensively, we were very strong all spring,” explained Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. “Even if they weren’t starters, we have (a lot of) experienced players (on defense) that played a significant amount of time last year.”
Last season, Missouri’s linebackers were very good. And all three starters return. There was significant improvement from the start of Spring Football until its conclusion among several of the back-up linebackers. And the starters all got better, as well, especially junior strong-side LB Donavin Newsom, who because Missouri primarily played their base defense, saw a lot of action this spring.
Junior middle linebacker Michael Scherer and senior weak-side linebacker Kentrell Brothers each improved this spring, as well. Those two veterans, Missouri’s leading tacklers from a year ago, played at a very, very high level this spring. And, Newsom played at a level that his talent has long suggested he could.
Another senior linebacker, Clarence Green, also played at a high level. He spent the spring working primarily with the second-team defense behind Newsom. He elevated his play, as well. And he had a very productive spring.
“We’ve got a lot of good players out there that have played a lot,” continued Coach Pinkel. “You know, we had a really good defense last year. In back-to-back years personnel-wise, (this defense is) maybe one of the best we’ve had……………………………………… The back end might be as athletic as we’ve ever been at linebackers, corners, and safeties.”
Sophomore LB Joe Burkett also had a productive spring backing up Brothers, as he strengthened his second-team standing.
Unfortunately, sophomore Eric Beisel missed most of the spring with an injury. He began the spring as the second-team middle linebacker, a position at which he is expected to begin fall camp. But in Beisel’s absence this spring, red-shirt freshman Brandon Lee stepped up into the middle with the second unit. At first, Lee was a bit tentative in his new spot. But toward the end of the spring, the very talented Lee looked more comfortable and showed some of his considerable ability as a playmaker. He was really coming on at the close of Spring Football.
Not only does Missouri have very high-quality veteran linebackers, the Tigers also have some very talented younger guys developing behind the veterans. A pair of red-shirt LBs, Roderick Winters and Grant Jones, each made strides this spring.
The other thing that took place for the Missouri linebackers this spring is the transition to a new position coach and defensive coordinator. From this standpoint, it appeared to me that the pre-break portion of Spring Football was successful in that coach and players became familiar with each other. By the second half of the spring, the transition appeared to be nearing completion, with the players being excited about what Coach Odom brings to their defense.
Post-Spring Linebacker Depth WLB 10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (S) 34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 218 (So) 48 Roderick Winters 5’11” 222 (RSF) 45 Justin Piazza 6’2” 205 (So) MLB 30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 230 (J) 4 Brandon Lee 6’3” 220 (RSF) 53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (J) 43 Christian Geen 6’0” 225 (RSF) 38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 235 (So) (injured) SLB 25 Donavin Newsom 6’2” 230 (J) 40 Clarence Green 6’0” 225 (S) 32 Tanner Hull 6’0” 220 (So) 15 Grant Jones 6’3” 225 (RSF)