Junior linebacker Donavin Newsom craves a bigger role in Missouri’s defense.
Newsom, who was the Tigers’ most-improved linebacker during spring practice, appeared in all 14 games last season, including four starts, and finished with 24 tackles, including 3 1/2 for a loss.
He also got subbed off most of the time in nickel situations, which substantially limited his role.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Newsom said. “Sitting down, talking to (senior linebacker) Clarence (Green), we were both frustrated, but we realized it’s more than just us. We’ve got to put the team in front. When nickel’s called out, we just had to count on nickel to do their job, so whenever nickel did their job that means base is back on the field.”
Under new defensive coordinator Barry Odom, it may not be as much of an issue.
“(Odom) just wants me on the field, so I can use my speed as an advantage and help the Tigers win,” said Newsom, a St. Louis native and Parkway North graduate. “He wants to keep me on the field more. … If they give me the chance (to play nickel), I can do it.”
Fellow junior linebacker Michael Scherer has noticed a difference.
“This year, having a bigger role in the defense has taken his game up a whole lot …” junior linebacker Michael Scherer said. “I know for a fact … he can run with anybody down the field and he can play the run extremely well. There’s no doubt he can be on the field in nickel situations.”
Scherer continued, “He’s a freak. He weighs 240 (pounds) and runs a 4.4(-second 40-yard dash). What else could you ask for? He hits like a truck. When he gets going and he gets into the flow of a game, he’s pretty good. … You’ll see a lot of Donavin Newsom this year.”
Inevitably on Friday, a radio gets turned on and lays down a beat in the Missouri locker room.
It’s strictly instrumental until one of the Tigers step up and starts freestyle rapping.
Quickly, teammates gather round as a raucous rap battle ensues.
“There’s a lot of battles going on on Fridays, because we call it ‘Freestyle Fridays,’” Newsom said. “There’s a lot of people in the locker who’ve got something for us.”
Newsom singled out a few players who drop dope rhymes, including quarterback Marvin Zanders and cornerbacks Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis.
Senior tight end Clayton Echard also has significant Freestyle Fridays clout.
“He can rap, surprisingly,” Newsom said. “He can rap. He’ll surprise you.”
Senior running back Russell Hansbrough doesn’t often participate, but he has a key role in MU’s new tradition.
“Russ is like the little hype man,” Newsom said. “You’ll see him in the background getting people hyped.”
That’s also a role junior linebacker Michael Scherer enjoys.
“I am more the moderator, the hype man/instigator,” Scherer said. “In order for there to be a rap battle, there needs to be an instigator egging people on. I’m very good at that, so I get in there.”
Scherer also has some hater in him, but said it comes with the territory.
“If somebody’s bad, I’m the first to boo,” he said. “I’ve got that. That’s part of being the instigator.”
▪ Sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore missed Tuesday’s practice because of a left shoulder sprain, which he suffered a day earlier in practice. He is listed day-to-day.
▪ Senior kicker Andrew Baggett (back spasms) also remains day-to-day, while his backup, junior Nick Coffman, also is unavailable. Coffman is day-to-day because of a groin strain.
▪ Redshirt freshman linebacker Roderick Winters will miss at least three months. He is scheduled to have surgery Friday to repair a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot.
▪ Redshirt freshman wide receiver DeSean Blair practiced Tuesday, but he was limited because of a mild ankle sprain.
▪ Freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson (sprained ankle) remains indefinitely sidelined.