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Missouri Football Spring Preview: Tigers have both potential and proven production at LB

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As spring approaches, we're taking a look at Missouri's projected depth chart and how the incoming recruits fit in. Today we’ll look at the linebackers.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers

Seniors Juniors Sophomores Freshman Class of 2016
Michael Scherer (R) 6'3 230 Eric Beisel (R) 6'3 225 Terez Hall 6'3 215 Frank Agbasimere (R) 6'2 220
Donavin Newsom (R) 6'2 230 Joey Burkett (R) 6'2 210 Brandon Lee (R) 6'2 220 Trey Baldwin 6'3 225
Roderick Winters (R) 5'11 225 Cale Garrett 6'3 220
Grant Jones (R) 6'3 225
Gone:

Kentrell Brothers, Clarence Green

Returning Starters:

Michael Scherer (93 tackles, 9 TFLs, 3 PDs), Donavin Newsom (60 tackles, 9 TFls, 2.5 sacks, 2 PDs, 2 FFs)

Other Returning:

Eric Beisel, Joey Burkett, Terez Hall, Brandon Lee, Roderick Winters (†), Grant Jones, Franklin Agbasimere

Newcomers:

Trey Baldwin, Cale Garrett, Early Enrollees: Trey Baldwin, Cale Garrett

Recap: Michael Scherer is the quarterback of Mizzou’s defense. He may have struggled somewhat in coverage, but he’s still clearly a plus defender at this level. He might not be my biggest fan, but I’m a big believer in him and what he can accomplish in his senior year. Donavin Newsom was overlooked due to the brilliance of Kentrell Brothers, but his 60 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks were all in the top four among Mizzou defenders.

Predictions: Donavin Newsom at SLB, Michael Scherer at MLB, Brandon Lee at WLB. Some combination of Terez Hall, Eric Beisel, Joey Burkett and Franklin "Smash" Agbasimere become rotational/situational subs, with Hall and Smash being rush linebackers, Burkett being used more in coverage and Beisel being the "killer" in Mizzou’s tank package. Roderick Winters is coming off a Lisfranc injury that can be difficult to heal from, while Grant Jones had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum last year. It remains to be seen if either can be regular contributors at this level. Both 2016 linebacker recruits are early enrollees, and while Trey Baldwin could see the field on special teams, I expect Cale Garrett to redshirt.

What to Watch: Can Newsom make "The Kentrell Brothers Leap"(™)? We heard Gary Pinkel laud Newsom’s athleticism, comparing him to Sean Weatherspoon (even after insisting he doesn't compare players), but we haven’t seen him "break through" and be an impact player yet. Can Scherer complete his game and add sideline to sideline range to his skill set? Can he be the leader that Kentrell Brothers was for the defense? Is this year we get to see what four-star linebacker Brandon Lee or Georgia native Terez Hall can do? On a meta scale, how much does Mizzou’s defense change schematically and philosophically with the wholesale coaching changes?

Dan Keegan: What does it mean when we say, "Can Mizzou replace Kentrell Brothers?" His eye-popping 152 tackles will be replaced -- not by one individual player and likely not as close to the line of scrimmage, as Brothers made an incredible 78 stops -- but opponents’ plays will still end with Mizzou players knocking them over. His leadership will be replaced: Michael Scherer is already a strong leader at the same position, and the defense as a whole is filled with veterans ready to step up.

What must be replaced is Brothers’ ability to create havoc plays that impacted the results of drives and games. I’m not great at math, but 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two INTs, three PBUs, one forced fumble and three blocked kicks adds up to one overstuffed stat sheet and many potential opponent points subtracted from the scoreboard. If Mizzou’s defense is going to be great again, these drive terminations will need to be replaced.

The loss of one of the best defenders in Mizzou history will be minimized somewhat by the strength of the other units on the defense and the young upside of those replacing Brothers. Scherer will wrap up a send off a great career in predictable fashion: excellent leadership and instincts, strong run support, and absolutely toasted in coverage at least once a game. Newsom is pencilled in for a breakout season, and I’m personally very excited about Hall’s potential. As one generation of great Mizzou linebackers depart, we will get a chance in 2016 to see the group that will lead in 2017 and beyond.

Bill C.: It's certainly odd feeling excited about a unit that just lost one of its best ever contributors, but here we are. Ignoring what Missouri lost and focusing on what the Tigers return, you're looking at a prototypical senior MLB/QB in Scherer, a dynamite athlete in Newsom (who, I think, did break through last year -- nine TFLs is a nice number -- but was overshadowed by Brothers' quadruple breakthrough), and a hell of a battle for the other spot. We've been excited about Lee and Hall for a while, Joey Burkett has quietly been biding his time, Beisel still seems to have quite a bit of potential (and might benefit as much as anyone from new coaching), Agbasimere has maybe more pure athletic upside than anyone in the unit, and coaches and analysts can't stop raving about Trey Baldwin (who still remained a low-rated recruit despite all the raving for whatever reason).

That's a lot to like. And this unit has the perfect mix you're looking for in the spring: known quantities and youngsters you're about to learn a lot more about.

And I don't know what you guys are talking about. Mike's great in coverage. It's them you want to be mad at, Mike.