Mizzou Links, 1-22-14: Michael Sam is a pass rusher, and Earleywine talks freak teams

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Sam tries to establish an identity at the Senior Bowl, early football enrollees begin class, Cameron Biedscheid is officially a Tiger, and Ehren Earleywine talks softball and "freak teams."

Since we're watching reruns on the basketball court, I'll keep the LSU links to the LSU Study Hall post. Here's some other fun stuff instead. (You can still talk hoops in the thread, of course.)

1. Michael Sam at the Senior Bowl

KC Star: Missouri’s Michael Sam seeks football identity at Senior Bowl

"I don’t think he’s a linebacker. ... I’m sorry," Davis said. "With his size, he looks like a linebacker, but he plays the game straight ahead, not backing up, and I think that’s his best way (for him to play)."

Dulgerian also noticed that Sam performed better in the one-on-one drills when allowed to come out of a three-point stance, a staple of 4-3 ends, as opposed to a two-point stance, a staple of 3-4 linebackers.

"That seems to be where he’s more comfortable, getting into his rush moves and using his initial power instead of setting up defenders off the edge from a two-point stance," Dulgerian said. "I didn’t see him much in pass coverage, but from what I know about him and what I saw (Monday) … that’s really not his strong suit, overall."

The one thing Sam, who racked up 48 tackles (19 for a loss), 11 1/2 sacks and nine quarterback hurries last season, does have going for him are his pass-rush skills, and that’s a valuable trait in today’s pass-friendly NFL. More and more, teams are willing to sacrifice size and run-stopping ability to harass the quarterback, which benefits faster, lighter pass rushers like Sam and Auburn’s Dee Ford, who checked in at 6 feet 2 and 243 pounds on Monday.

The Rookie Scouting Portfolio (Jene Bramel): Does the Reese’s Senior Bowl Put Edge Rushers In Position to Succeed?

The North squad is using Trent Murphy exclusively at defensive end. That’s likely a good decision. But Michael Sam and Marcus Smith would seem better fits in an edge rushing role than the strong side linebacker role they’re being used in currently. In Monday’s North practice, Sam and Smith saw just three pass rushing reps each in one-on-one drills and zero reps in team drills. Teams want to see both players in a new role, but they should be given an opportunity to show how their best skill holds up against Senior Bowl competition.

The Tailgater: Russ Lande’s Senior Bowl Notebook: Day 2

Arkansas DE Chris Smith and Missouri DE Michael Sam both came in short: Smith at 6-1 1/8, and Sam at 6-1 5/8. Both are edge rushers, but can they be 3-4 outside linebackers? Smith is stockier at 266, and Sam was a tiny bit heavy at 260. Both those weights might come down by the Combine, depending on how they work here and what the coaches' and scouts' feedback is about their future positions.

Shutdown Corner: Senior Bowl preview: Weigh-in kicks off huge draft week in Mobile

There has been a significant buzz in the draft community about the pass rush skills of Sam, but in one-on-one drills he has consistently been a beat late off the snap, and has not shown the explosiveness or hand usage needed to beat his blocker. While he has looked athletic during linebacker and seven-on-seven passing drills, he has appeared at times to be confused on coverage drops, and consequently has allowed multiple receptions to receivers in his zone.

2. Freshmen (and a junior) in Columbia

The Missourian: Missouri football recruits enroll early

Logan Cheadle, Kenya Dennis, Brandon Lee, Marvin Zanders, and Mike Fairchild chose to enroll in classes for this semester — four of whom chose to graduate early and forgo their final semester of high school — rather than wait until the more traditional fall enrollment period in order to be eligible to participate in spring football. By doing so, these recruits hope to gain an advantage over other incoming players by familiarizing themselves with the Tigers' system a semester in advance.

Chad Moller, strategic communications director for the football team, confirmed that all five are on campus and taking classes.

Other recruiting links
PowerMizzou: Tuesday Recruiting Updates
PowerMizzou: GA WR hauls in offer

And a scholarship count
The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri's Unofficial Scholarship Count. Or, "Who Do the Tigers Have? And Where?

3. A sophomore in Columbia, too

MUtigers.com: Mizzou Announces Addition of St. Louis Native Cameron Biedscheid
The Missourian: Missouri basketball announces Biedscheid transfer
Post-Dispatch: Biedscheid officially joins Mizzou

4. #Stubble

MUtigers.com: Mizzou Softball Receives No. 14 Preseason Ranking
The Trib: Fresh faces dot Missouri lineup

Earleywine said he envisions Emily Crane leading off and playing center field, followed by shortstop Sami Fagan, right fielder Casey Stangel, catcher Kirsten Mack, first baseman Kelsea Roth and left fielder Mackenzie Sykes.

"One through six, that's as good as anybody in the country, give or take" defending national champion "Oklahoma and a few of those freak teams," said Earleywine, whose team went 38-14 last season and reached its sixth straight NCAA Super Regional. "But we'll be able to compete with anybody."

The seven through nine slots are more uncertain, but Angela Randazzo should factor in somewhere, possibly at designated player. She also could spend some time at first base or third base. The top candidate for third base is Natalie Fleming, a freshman out of Silex High School. Earleywine said Fleming "showed some serious pop in her bat" during the fall.

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