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Missouri’s embrace of the nickel back gives the Tigers’ back 7 impressive depth

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Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri head coach Barry Odom and defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross made a concerted effort to get the nickel back more involved this year in spring football; it is a sensible change given the involvement of slot receivers in today’s college football offense — it’s also a position Mizzou has had success with in the past — and it maximizes the depth Missouri has coming into 2017, too.

With not only the change, but also Kaleb Prewett’s star turn, suddenly Mizzou is two-deep with starter-caliber guys at each linebacker and each safety position.

Prewett thrived in the hybrid outside linebacker/nickelback role and led all players with six tackles in the spring game. The K-State transfer can tackle, blitz and cover from the position and could give the defense an added dimension of versatility. [Brandon] Lee opened the spring at the Sam but moved over to Will and didn’t see much time with the top units in the spring game.

Now you’ve got five particularly interesting linebackers for two positions (Eric Beisel, Terez Hall, Cale Garrett, Joey Burkett, Brandon Lee) and you’ve got six guys with starting experience battling for three safety(ish) spots: Prewett, Cam Hilton, Anthony Sherrils, Thomas Wilson, Ronnell Perkins, and T.J. Warren.

In theory, this move, combined with improved health and depth of options at defensive tackle, has improved Missouri’s defensive upside a decent amount. Now we just need to see what happens against real competition in a few more months.

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  • So. Not quite the best weekend on the diamonds. Mizzou Baseball got off to a good start at Ole Miss, riding a complete game from surprise starter Cole Bartlett to a 9-3 win. But on Saturday, in what has become a trend, Mizzou couldn’t take advantage of a solid start from Tanner Houck (8 innings, 3 runs) and lost, 3-1. On Sunday, Ole Miss led 9-1 after four innings and cruised, 9-6. Mizzou is now 27-14 and 8-10 in SEC play; the Tigers are still just two games out of second place in the SEC East, but they’re just 7-13 since the win streak ended, and they will almost certainly have an RPI in the 50s or 60s when the new calculations are made later today. The midweek game at Missouri State’s pretty big.
  • It was even worse for Mizzou Softball. The Tigers got swept at home in a three-game series by No. 20 Kentucky, but that doesn’t quite describe it. They gave up two unearned runs in a 4-2 Friday loss, then managed just three hits in a 4-0 Saturday loss. It looked like they had at least stolen one back on Sunday when they went up 8-3 after five innings, but a team that has been killed by big innings this year was killed by a really big inning: Kentucky scored 6 in the sixth and came back to win, 10-8. Mizzou gave up six unearned runs in the loss. Ehren Earleywine: “That’s when you have to have poise. We’re not having it.”

The Trib’s Joe Vozzelli sat down with the folks at ABC-17 for a Sunday conversation on Mizzou Softball.