Donavin Newsom (6'2, 230, Jr.)
2014: 18.5 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR, 3 QB hurries
2013: 4.5 tackles
Bill C.: The complexion of Missouri's defense changes in 2015, and not only because Dave Steckel is no longer the defensive coordinator. While the level of athleticism and play-making seems to be similar to that of recent years, a) the defense is younger in some spots, and b) the major play-makers are playing different positions than we're used to at Mizzou. Outside of Charles Harris, we don't really know what to expect from the defensive ends; meanwhile, the linebacker and cornerback positions are loaded with both experience and potential aggressiveness.
We've been talking about Newsom quite a bit this summer. From a June 'breakout veterans' piece:
He won the Most Improved Linebacker award in the spring, which is sometimes difficult to do when you're already a starter. He split time with Clarence Green (who also seemed to have a nice spring) last fall, but if his consistency begins to match his upside (despite ceding playing time to both Green and nickel backs, he still had 3.5 tackles for loss, three hurries, two forced fumbles, and a break-up), he could give Barry Odom quite a bit to think about. Mizzou has three potentially awesome cornerbacks and some young, athletic safeties, but a Newsom breakout might mean the nickel back stays on the sidelines a bit more.
I wrote yesterday about the possibility that linebacker Donavin Newsom stays on the field more this season, instead of bringing in a true nickel back. Pinkel was asked specifically about that scenario today, and while he didn't actually answer the question, he had high praise for Newsom: "He's really, really playing well. He's a tremendous athlete. One of those guys that has never been producing the numbers that my expectation level is, just because he's such a great athlete. But he's playing a whole different level now. He's kind of were we thought he (would) be.
"He's very very athletic for his size. He's 235 pounds, but he really moves tremendously well, so you can do a lot of things with him. Put him in a position where he can make a lot of plays in our scheme. We're looking forward to seeing him hopefully have a really good year, which he's capable of. But we're seeing all the signs you usually see from guys who make that next step, the maturity and just figuring it all out."
"That next step." Those are pretty exciting words when they come out of Gary Pinkel's mouth. We've seen mid- or late-career surges from Mizzou defenders countless times, and if Newsom can stay healthy (which has been an issue for him at times), he could have a monstrous year. He hinted at nice play-making ability last year, but he only got so many chances to prove it, both because he was splitting time with Clarence Green and because Mizzou played nickel a lot. This might be his time.
The Beef: I suppose Newsom is a product (or somewhat lack thereof) of the fact that Mizzou typically had five defensive backs on the field last year. I imagine it might be more of the same for him at times, though I do wonder if there is any thought to moving him to the WLB next year in an attempt to replace Kentrell Brothers.
AlaTiger: The changes in scheme and attitude that Barry Odom is putting in place this year may seem to be serving Newsom and Clarence Green well. It seems like we will be seeing more linebackers on the field more often this year.
Fullback U: We’ve been hearing about Donavin Newsom’s potential for what seems like years. Gary Pinkel himself has compared him to Sean Weatherspoon even though he routinely insists he won’t compare current players to past ones.
Part of the reason Newsom struggled to see the field is because former defensive coordinator Dave Steckel favored the 4-2-5 which kept Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer on the field almost every down. Now he’ll see the field as Odom (you have no idea how much I want to call him Barry Doom) looks to make use of Newsom's blend of speed and aggressiveness.
During scrimmages, I’ve already seen Newsom used as the wildcard linebacker who disguises the coverage -- is he blitzing or covering the slot receiver? The offense doesn’t know until the ball is snapped.
By the way, Donavin Newsom is a prime candidate to become another #MizzouGrate. I’ve had to retype his name several times just for this piece.