Missouri has a long line of players who have excelled at their respective positions and have individual traits that help make them stand out. You know, like Drew Lock’s arm strength or the athletic ability and quick twitch of a guy like Sheldon Richardson.
Which is a good starting point for this question: How would you build your ideal player? We’ll start this week with the wide outs.
The makings of the best linebackers are broken down to these categories:
Tackling and Playmaking: Sean Weatherspoon; 2006-2009
Usually when you think about those teams from ‘06 and ‘07 you think on the offensive side of the ball. You think of guys like Daniel. Maclin. Coffman. Rucker.
As transcendent as those guys were on the offensive side of the ball, the defense too, had a star on their side of the ball and that was Sean Weatherspoon.
As a tackler, ‘Spoon was everywhere. He was a true sideline to sideline kind of linebacker who really cleaned a lot of stuff up for their defenses. Not only that, but he made a lot of plays that you can only make if you’re diagnosing the play in literal fractions of a second. When he got there to make the tackle, he never really missed and he’d always be sure to hit them as hard as physically possible. It wasn’t JUST about making a tackle. It was about making sure that defender felt his presence and would maybe think twice the next time he went towards Weatherspoon.
As a playmaker, Weatherspoon had a knack for not just limiting gains to a yard or two but also creating negative plays.
Coverage: Nick Bolton; 2018-2020
During his career at Missouri, Nick Bolton did a lot of things well. In all likelihood though, he will always be remembered as a sideline to sideline, gap filling, tackling machine. And for good reason. He was elite in that respect and if it weren’t for Sean Weatherspoon being amazing, he’d probably have gotten the nod as a tackler.
However, because of how good he was in that aspect of his game, his coverage skills have become an extremely underrated part of the game. In an era where you see so many hybrid linebackers playing, Bolton was a true linebacker playing all three downs and doing it well. He more than held his own covering flats and patrolled the middle of the field. He was a good matchup with tight ends and and was one of few guys who could matchup with running backs out of the backfield and you didn’t feel too bad about it. Mental mistakes happened occasionally, but from a physical standpoint, Bolton was an obvious plus.