July 16, 2008

Countdown to Camp: Linebackers lead the way

PowerMizzou.com will preview fall camp extensively over the next four weeks, including previews at every position and individual looks at players who must step up to make 2008 a success. If you are not yet a premium subscriber, click here to start your free seven-day trial today!.

Fall camp opens up in 19 days. Over the next couple of weeks, PowerMizzou.com will continue to get Tiger fans completely prepped for the biggest season in school history. Today, we continue our in-depth breakdowns of the fall situation at every position on the field. We move on to the linebackers.

The Starters: In Sean Weatherspoon and Brock Christopher, the Tigers boast a duo that can match up with any in the Big 12 Conference. Spoon is a candidate for defensive player of the year honors and Christopher should challenge for conference awards as well. The third starter will likely be Luke Lambert to start the season. He will get a push from Van Alexander if the senior can get back to full strength after tearing an ACL in spring practice.

Projected Backups: Alexander's health is a key here, because that would give the Tigers four good, experienced linebackers. Steve Redmond, who will figure in the mix, has seen some time, but will be asked to do more this season. Jeff Gettys was mostly a special teamer last year, but may be asked to produce at linebacker, especially early in the season. With Andrew Gachkar quite possibly headed for a redshirt season, true freshman Will Ebner could make some waves as well and push converted defensive end Tyler Crane for time.

Major Camp Storyline: Everything really revolves around Alexander's health. The Tigers know what they're getting from the starters. Lambert was solid last season and the other two are better than that. If Alexander is showing progress and ready to contribute by Big 12 play, Missouri may be as good as anybody in the conference at linebacker. If Alexander is slow coming back, the depth is an issue of concern.

By the Numbers: 127 and 75. The number of total tackles and solo tackles for Weatherspoon in his sophomore season. No returning player in the Big 12 has a higher number. Only Jordon Dizon and Curtis Lofton had more total tackles than Spoon last year and both are now in the NFL.

Position Rating: 8.5. Yes, depth is admittedly an issue. But the Tigers play only two linebackers on about half of their defensive snaps anyway. Christopher and Weatherspoon were in the top 14 of the Big 12 in tackles per game last season, and were two of just eight players in the league with at least 100 tackles. Both could compete for first-team all-Big 12 honors. Lambert and Alexander are above average Big 12 backers as well, but this rating is based mostly on the strength of the top two.

PowerMizzou.com will continue our position previews with a look at the cornerbacks on Thursday.

PowerMizzou.com will preview fall camp extensively over the next four weeks, including previews at every position and individual looks at players who must step up to make 2008 a success. If you are not yet a premium subscriber, click here to start your free seven-day trial today!.



 

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