As Missouri prepares for fall camp, ShowMeMizzou.com continues our Preseason Position Previews with a breakdown of the Tigers linebacker corps.
Missouri returns all three of their starting linebackers from last season. Last season, Missouri’s linebackers were good. And as the season went along, they got better and became very good. The only thing that’s happened since then is that those three starting linebackers have continued to get better. And now, heading into this season, they are also even that much more experienced.
All three of the starters have gotten better, none more so than junior strong-side LB Donavin Newsom. He enters fall camp ready to take the next step up, and play at the level that his talent has long suggested he could. Junior middle linebacker Michael Scherer and senior weak-side linebacker Kentrell Brothers have each gotten better, as well. Last season, Brothers led Missouri with 122 total tackles. Scherer was next on the team, with 114 tackles. Their goals for this season are to make the move from being very good to being great.
Missouri also returns another experienced senior linebacker, in Clarence Green. He too, appears to have elevated his play. He’ll likely begin fall camp working on the strong side with the second-team defense, behind Newsom.
So, Missouri’s top four LBs are long on experience, and are also very talented. And, some of the youngsters behind them are even more talented.
This year, the strength of the Missouri defense may very well be the back seven. Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel seems to like what he has back there.
“The back end (of our defense) might be as athletic as we’ve ever been at linebackers, corners, and safeties,” Coach Pinkel said.
There’s no might be. This is, without question, the most athletic group of linebackers and safeties Missouri’s had during Coach Pinkel’s tenure. And as a group, this is probably also his most athletic group of corners.
While the top four linebackers have most of the extensive experience that this position group brings into camp, there is plenty of young talent behind them, as well.
Sophomore Joe Burkett will likely enter camp as the back-up to Kentrell Brothers, and while he’s been getting better, there’s going to be plenty of young, talented players competing for his spot on the two-deep. Among those we might see challenge at that second-team weak-side linebacker spot are red-shirt freshmen Roderick Winters and Brandon Lee, and true freshmen Terez Hall, Franklin Agbasimere, and Ferrod Gardner. Hall and Agbasimere might be the two most athletically talented LB prospects the Tigers have signed during Coach Pinkel’s tenure. Certainly, they’re the most talented and athletic pair of LBs Coach Pinkel’s signed in a single class.
On the latest official Depth Chart, Lee was listed as the second-team middle linebacker, ahead of sophomore Eric Beisel, who had held that spot all of last season, and who saw more than occasional game day action. Beisel was injured throughout most of the spring, which allowed the versatile and very talented Lee the opportunity to move from the outside into the middle and, at least temporarily, take over that second-team spot.
Like Beisel, red-shirt freshman Grant Jones is probably limited to playing in the middle or on the strong side. On the latest official Depth Chart, Jones was listed third on the strong side, behind Newsom and Green.
So, not only does Coach Pinkel have this talented group of experienced, veteran linebackers, the Tigers also have a number of young and very talented linebackers who will be in competition for inclusion on the two-deep, as well as being readied for the future.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart might look like at linebacker to begin Fall Camp:
10 Kentrell Brothers 6’1” 240 (S)
34 Joe Burkett 6’2” 218 (So)
48 Roderick Winters 5’11” 222 (RSF)
24 Terez Hall 6’2” 216 (F)
49 Ferrod Gardner 6’1” 210 (F)
30 Michael Scherer 6’3” 230 (J)
4 Brandon Lee 6’3” 220 (RSF)
38 Eric Beisel 6’3” 235 (So)
32 Tanner Hull 6’0” 220 (So)
53 Christian Williams 6’0” 235 (J)
25 Donavin Newsom 6’2” 230 (J)
40 Clarence Green 6’0” 225 (S)
15 Grant Jones 6’3” 225 (RSF)
45 Franklin Agbasimere 6’2” 215 (F)