Missouri junior linebacker Michael Scherer is dramatically more settled this season compared with the same time one year ago.
It’s not hard to understand why.
Scherer — a 6-foot-3, 235-pound St. Louis native and Country Day graduate — approached his first season as a Tigers starter with the usual uncertainty.
But after finishing fourth in the SEC with 114 tackles, second most in the conference among returning players behind only Missouri’s senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers (122), the doubt and the worry have been whitewashed.
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“It’s awesome,” Scherer said. “Going out to practice, everything just seems so much easier. Everything comes to me so much better. Learning the game is a lot easier. Everything is much slower.”
Scherer said his confidence took a nosedive when he joined the Tigers in 2012, but last season rebuilt his self-image as a football player and then some.
“When you have success, you realize you’re a good football player,” Scherer said. “Sometimes, when you come in here, you’re coming from high school, where you’re the best. You come in here and think you’re terrible, and you go through a tough stage with that, which some kids are going through right now.
“Once you get your confidence back and trust in your ability and yourself, it really takes your game to another level. So, once I was able to trust in myself last year, it helped me out a lot. Building on that all summer and just knowing what I can do this year, when I’m working out and training every day, thinking about the possibility of the things I could do this year, it really drove me to get better every day.”
Last season’s success also permitted Scherer to assume a greater leadership role with the Tigers, who play the final scrimmage of fall camp Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
“The one thing I’ve been able to do is kind of be a leader now,” Scherer said. “Last year, I was trying to take care of myself a little bit. We had some older guys that did the talking and stuff. When I was getting tired, it was them getting on me. Now, that’s my job. I’ve been able to move over to being a leader a little bit more and be a little more vocal.”
Missouri hopes Scherer is poised for a leap forward, especially in first-year defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s revamped system that will free up the linebackers to blitz more and make more impact plays in 2015.
“He’s quicker, he’s stronger, he’s faster and probably a little bit smarter since January,” said Odom, who lauded Scherer’s intelligence. “He’s a student of the game. He wants to be right. He wants the ownership of the defense to be set in our room, and he takes pride in that.”
Scherer wants to help lead the Tigers to their first conference championship since 1969, but he doesn’t have a lot of specific goals for himself.
Well, maybe one.
“I want to have more tackles than Kentrell,” Scherer joked.
He doesn’t think opponents will be laughing at his play by season’s end.
Far from it, Scherer is ready to make his mark on the Southeastern Conference.
“This summer, I worked real hard to try and take it to another level …,” he said. “I just want to be better than I was last year. I want to be an all-conference type of player. I want to be someone that people talk about.
“I may not get talked about now besides from people in Columbia, so it’s one of those things where I want people to know my name. That’s going to come with a lot of hard work and playing well every week, showing that I can do some things people didn’t think I could.”