There’s no way to replace Kentrell Brothers, who’s now in camp with the Minnesota Vikings.
Brothers led the nation in tackles last season with 152 and had a knack for always being in position to make plays. That combination of instinct, IQ and tenacity is hard to find.
If Mizzou had played in a bowl game, he might have broken the program’s single-season record for tackles (164 by Travis McDonald in 1994).
Still, the Tigers are in good shape with seniors Michael Scherer and Donavin Newsom returning with boatloads of experience.
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Scherer has appeared in all 40 games the last three seasons and started all 26 games as a sophomore and junior.
Newsom has appeared in 36 games during the last three seasons, including 15 starts.
The leadership burden falls squarely on their shoulders, not only in the linebackers room but for the defense in general (along with junior defensive end Charles Harris).
For more on Mizzou’s linebacker situation, here’s The Star’s preseason position breakdown:
Returning starters: Donavin Newsom, senior; Michael Scherer, senior.
Other returning contributors: Eric Beisel, junior; Joey Burkett, junior; Terez Hall, sophomore; Grant Jones, sophomore; Brandon Lee, sophomore; Roderick Winters, sophomore.
Newcomers: Franklin Agbasimere, redshirt freshman; Trey Baldwin, freshman; Cale Garrett, freshman.
Projected 2016 starters: Burkett (weakside), Newsom (strongside), Scherer (middle)
Outlook: Scherer or junior defensive end Charles Harris are probably the most indispensable players on Missouri’s defense. An injury to either one could prove crippling for a unit that ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense and sixth in total defense last season. Scherer recorded 114 tackles in 2014 and 93 in 2015, second on the team behind Brothers in both seasons. He needs another monster campaign for the Tigers to duplicate last season’s defensive dominance.
Newsom really started coming into his own late last season. He tied a career-high with eight tackles against Tennessee on Nov. 21 and broke that mark with 10 tackles in the season finale at Arkansas six days later. He needs to continue that upward trajectory, but tackle numbers alone may not define his season. Newsom finished with 63 tackles last season, including 41 solo stops and nine tackles for a loss with 2 1/2 sacks.
The strong-side linebacker position might change more than any other position under new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, taking on a hybrid safety look to provide flexibility for the defense. Sophomore Terez Hall pushed Newsom for the starting spot there during spring camp and could force his way into the rotation. He also might be in the mix along with junior Joey Burkett and sophomore Brandon Lee as the new weak-side linebacker in the Tigers’ 4-3 scheme.
Don’t sleep on freshmen linebackers Cale Garrett from Kearney and Trey Baldwin either, both enrolled for the spring semester and got their feet wet during those 15 practices.