2014 Missouri spring football: Receiver and linebacker will be the focus of Saturday's spring game

Bill Carter

This week's practice reports have certainly honed in on what will be the most interesting positions to watch during Saturday's spring game: receiver (because of DGB's dismissal) and linebacker (because of injuries). A lot of players at these positions will get reps with the first-string offense, and it will be interesting to see who makes the most noise.

Wide receiver

The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri Spring Practice Notes: The "Height Ain't Nothing But A Number" edition

Sasser, in particular, is getting first shot at stepping in at Green-Beckham's outside slot after starting last season -- and the spring -- as an inside receiver.

He said he doesn't feel any added weight when it comes to replacing a player who was expected to be one of the top returning receivers in the SEC.

His experience running inside routes might even help him now that he's getting a little more real estate with which to work.

"You can get away with a little less crisp routes on the outside, just because you have more time most of the time and having a little bit more area to work with," Sasser said. "Bringing that to the outside allows me to give, at least our cornerbacks for right now, a different look. Then coming into the season, a lot of corners don’t really expect a whole group of guys having really nice routes. That’s what our group brings. Really nice routes, we’ve got speed and we’ve got guys who can catch."

Bud Sasser has turned into a rather well-rounded receiver through the years, as evidenced by the fact that he was asked to switch from inside to outside receiver. The biggest thing with Sasser is hands; he sometimes forgets how to use them. If he can cut down on the drops (which appears to have been a problem at times for the receiving corps as a whole in spring ball), he's talented enough to catch 50+ passes this year.

Linebacker

KC Star: Missouri needs young linebacking corps to step up

"It’s a lot different," said sophomore Michael Scherer, who has spent the last three weeks working out at middle linebacker. "We’re young. We’re very young, but it’s one of those things where you’ve got to say, ‘I’m the leader now. I’m the starter. I’ve got to do my job and I can’t worry about who’s not here. I’ve got to do my job, because the rest of the defense is counting on me.’ "

Of course, that can be easier said than done.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said linebacker is one of the hardest positions to learn along with quarterback and offensive line.

"There’s so many things happening," Pinkel said. "They have keys for everything they do and counter keys. It’s remarkable, and you have to be able to execute it and get it done without thinking."

Fortunately, what the Tigers lack in experience, they just might make up for in athleticism.

We've seen a lot of people -- coaches and players alike -- raving about Scherer and Eric Beisel in recent days. Beisel was one of the stars of the second scrimmage, and he has a huge opportunity to position himself well for the fall. With Kentrell Brothers and Donavin Newsome both out with injury, the first-string rotation will figure to be some combination of Scherer, Beisel, Darvin Ruise, and Clarence Green. A standout performance among any of them could result in a first-string spot on the post-spring depth chart.

Defensive back

There's reason to watch the defensive backs, as well. (Well, there's reason to watch everybody, but you know what I mean.)

PowerMizzou: Five who could shine

Safety: Ian Simon had some great moments a year ago, but wasn't really consistent. He has had a good spring, highlighted by a couple of plays last weekend. If he has another good week, he should establish himself as the starter opposite Braylon Webb headed into fall camp.

Cornerback: As we mentioned yesterday, three players are competing for two spots in all likelihood. Kenya Dennis, Logan Cheadle and David Johnson are the three. It appears Johnson may have a leg up right now. He had a strong spring at times last year and looked to be in line for playing time, but it didn't happen. Johnson has a chance to make 2014 his year.

At least three of the four starters in the secondary are pretty solidified -- Braylon Webb, John Gibson, Aarion Penton -- but, well, Mizzou will play more than three defensive backs. Watch Ian Simon and Duron Singleton, and watch the backup corners. They'll all play a lot in 2014.

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