No senior linebacker who has taken as many reps as Michael Scherer is used to making mistakes.
But mistakes were frequent and inevitable this spring for both Scherer and the Missouri defense during a transition to a new scheme under defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross — one that puts more focus on filling gaps and reading formations pre-snap.
And Scherer, who spent four years learning the previous system, understands why.
“It’s football, it’s defense, everything’s pretty much the same thing with a different tweak to it no matter where you go, but you also have to realize there’s a bunch of guys trying to learn a new scheme,” Scherer said Monday. “It’s tough. It’s not easy. And some guys aren’t as welcoming of change as some others.”
When he first heard that he had to learn the new scheme, Scherer said whatever way he thought about it, he had to get over it and move on.
What assisted that process? A one-on-one meeting with Cross, something similar to what’s assisted the entire defensive side in regrouping after conceding 42 points to LSU more than a week ago.
While on bye last week, the Missouri defense, as well as coaches, met to field questions on the current defensive situation and to simplify signal calls for the defensive line, which has to make adjustments on each snap.
Scherer said Cross and the coaches were attentive and open to suggestions, something he prefers and something necessary to fix the Tigers’ standing as the third-worst run defense in the Southeastern Conference.
“It’s no secret that we’re not playing well, and the people on the defense are not happy with the way we’re playing,” Scherer said. “So, we got in a room and sat down and all talked about it and figured it out. Sometimes, when everyone’s just frustrated, nobody’s talking about how to make it better and nothing ever gets better, so that’s what we did.”
Senior defensive lineman Rickey Hatley said the meeting was “well-needed” to see what was going on and to tell guys to watch more film and to study their plays more.
Against LSU, Missouri gave up 418 yards on the ground through holes big enough for an 18-wheeler. The cause? Coach Barry Odom attributed much of it to trust.
“We’ve got to trust on playing together whatever the call is and do your job. Don’t try to do too much,” Odom said. “I think there are times the other night where we were trying to do a little too much individually. Do your job, and get the other 10 guys around you doing it.”
Scherer said there was trust in the game against Georgia, for example. Scherer said the Missouri defense in that game also had energy and was having fun, and that when they lose that, they’re “not very good.”
With a minimum of seven games left in his career, Scherer said having fun is essential. But so too is his understanding of the purpose of switching to this scheme — to succeed in the SEC.
Although struggling now, Scherer and Hatley believe that success will come in time.
“I think people need to realize that these coaches that came in are here to build for the future also,” Scherer said. “It can’t just be for right now, or else, after the people who know the (current) defense leave, it goes downhill.
“They’re building for the future.”
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis