Missouri sophomore Michael Scherer won’t be Andrew Wilson. He won’t even try.
Scherer represents a different breed as he takes over at middle linebacker for Wilson, who is in camp with the Miami Dolphins after graduating as the 10th-leading tackler in Tigers history.
“It’s not that I’m not intense and not into everything,” Scherer said. “I’d just say I carry myself in a little different way.”
Wilson was a throwback, tenacious and quietly intense with a reputation for bone-rattling collisions, while Scherer brings a more cerebral approach.
“They’re two completely different players,” junior linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “Wilson was the type to come downhill, hit you and not think about anything else, just putting the hammer down. Michael is very smart and … his knowledge of the game will help us.”
Despite never having started a college game, Scherer, who made six tackles last season primarily as a special-teams contributor, is responsible for organizing the Tigers’ defense.
“We’ve got a game plan and it’s my job to know the game plan and be able to put people in the right places,” he said. “There’s a lot of times where the d-linemen are turned around, looking back at me and saying, ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’ … Sometimes, it’s only myself in the middle, so I’ve got to be the one ordering people around.”
During spring football, Scherer — whose brother, Dan, won the Pac-12 wrestling title at 197 pounds last season — expressed some trepidation about asserting leadership, despite his inexperience and barking out orders.
He was penciled in as the starter at strongside linebacker before Brothers, whom Missouri’s staff planned to move from weakside to middle linebacker, was sidelined by surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Scherer, who was the spring camp’s most improved linebacker, took over in the middle and never looked back, developing as into one of the defense’s leaders ahead of the season opener at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.
“It was awkward at first, but you’ve got to remember that he’s part of the team and he’s in a position now where sometimes he might have to get on us,” Brothers said. “It’s not that he suddenly commands respect, but he’s definitely earned it.”
Scherer can lay the lumber like Wilson did, too, but he’s part of a linebacker group that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has repeatedly called the most athletic he’s ever had.
It also might be the smartest group led by Scherer, who stepped in during the first half against Indiana last season when Wilson was suspended because of a targeting penalty.
“Michael’s starting to really develop into being a student of the game,” Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said. “You talk about people passing along leadership and stuff, he’s learned a lot from the older guys that were here in the past about studying film and knowing his fits. He’s really become a student of the game.”
Now, Scherer, who is expected to pair with Brothers in the Tigers’ nickel package, is eager to put that knowledge to use on game day.
“It’s a much different feeling, and, of course, there’s nerves,” Scherer said. “There’s nerves every single game. I don’t think I’d be a normal person, and it would be a bad thing if I wasn’t nervous, so Saturday’s a big day for me to show everyone that I’m ready to play, what I can do and what I’m capable of.”