2010 Tiger Position Preview: Linebacker

A closer look at the Tiger LB corps that will prowl the field this coming season

6   Andrew Gachkar  6'3" 228 (S)
15 Donovan Bonner  6'2" 230 (So)
54 Michael Brennan  6'3" 215 (RSF)
36 Jared Parham  6'2" 220 (F)
34 Tony Randolph  5'11" 210 (RSF) (injured)
33 Luke Lambert  6'3" 235 (S)
32 Will Ebner  6'1" 230 (J)
35 Jeff Gettys  6'3" 235 (S)
47 Adam Burton  6'2 235 (RSF)
25 Zaviar Gooden   6'2" 225 (So)
48 Andrew Wilson  6'3" 230 (RSF)
5   Josh Tatum  6'1" 235 (J)
12 Darvin Ruise  6'2"  230  (F)

The LB position is an area of quality depth for Missouri heading into the 2010 season. The Tigers return four LBs with previous starting experience, and the depth chart during the spring had all four listed as starters at various times.

Seniors Andrew Gachkar and Luke Lambert enter their final season at Missouri. Each have started and played extensively during their Missouri careers. Gachkar opens fall camp listed as the starter at Sean Weatherspoon's vacated WLB position. Lambert will begin camp as either the primary back-up, or as a co-starter, along with junior Will Ebner, at the MLB position. Ebner has gained a reputation among his teammates, and throughout the conference, as a heavy hitter. Starting at the SLB position is the ultra-athletic sophomore, Zaviar Gooden. The soft-spoken and well-respected Gooden possesses freakish athleticism, with a sub 4.4 forty time and 40" vertical at 6'2" and over 230 lbs. During the spring, Coach Pinkel described him as "a bullet out there".

With essentially four returning, and interchangeable, starting linebackers, the Tigers appear to be in very good shape as far as depth. But, that only identifies the experienced players at these critical positions on the defense. The Tigers have more quality LBs waiting to get on the field.

Sophomore Donovan Bonner performed well on special teams a year ago, and he'll enter camp listed second at WLB. Don't be surprised to see Bonner getting some reps at the MLB position, as well, as the Tigers prepare to develop even more depth here.

Behind Gooden, at the SLB, red-shirt freshman Andrew Wilson and junior Josh Tatum will be in close competition for the playing time that usually goes with a spot on the two-deep. Either of Tatum or Wilson could see time at WLB or MLB, as well.

Walk-on senior Jeff Gettys, an experienced special teams performer, and red-shirt freshman Adam Burton will both be trying to climb the depth chart, most likely at the MLB position, where they were listed third and fourth respectively, coming out of spring ball.

Two very talented true freshmen enter the mix at linebacker this fall. It will be very interesting to see Jared Parham and Darvin Ruise during fall camp, as they become acclimated to Missouri football, and as the staff becomes acquainted with each of them. Don't be too surprised if one or both line up on special teams for the Tigers this fall. Over the past several seasons, the "special forces" have been a training ground for Missouri's young linebackers.

Returning red-shirt freshmen walk-ons, Michael Brennan and Tony Randolph each made solid impressions last year and this spring, although Randolph injured his knee near the end of the spring, and may miss fall camp.

Look for several of Missouri's linebackers to be major contributors on the Tigers' various special teams, especially the coverage teams. Missouri's linebacker position has undergone a considerable upgrade over the past several years, and that trend continues. At least a handful of quality athletes will be competing just to get on the two-deep, with only a couple of spots legitimately up for grabs.

Pre-Season Camp Depth Chart

Analysis: The Tigers will enter the 2010 season with a nice mix of veterans and talented,but inexperienced group of linebackers.

Replacing a player the caliber of current Atlanta Falcons player Sean Weatherspoon will be impossible to do, but the Tigers look like they will have some depth and a solid group of athletes ready to step up and assume a similar role.

Zaviar Gooden could follow a similar path if he lives up to his abilities. We saw flashes of what he is capable of both last year and especially in the spring where he flew around using his tremendous speed to his advantage to make plays. Gooden could provide an excellent addition in rushing the quarterback this year.

The battle from spring looks like it will carry over to pre-season camp between Lambert and Ebner. Both will play a lot and are a nice tandem to bring back for 2010.

Andrew Gachkar is the veteran of the outside linebackers and will play opposite of Gooden.

The Tigers have some outstanding athletes competing at the outside spots with Tatum,Bonner and Ruise. Expect them to push for playing time during camp.

Overall, linebacker looks like it will be one of the Tigers strengths on defense if not the strength of it.

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