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July 29, 2011

Camp Preview: Linebacker

PowerMizzou.com will get Tiger fans ready for fall camp like no one else. Camp opens on Thursday, August 4th. Between now and then, we will provide an in-depth preview at every position on the roster. Today, we look at the linebackers.

The Starters

Missouri will start three, but has four who could be considered starters. Zaviar Gooden is a sure thing on one side and Andrew Wilson heads into camp the likely starter on the other side. In the middle, Will Ebner and Luke Lambert will share time throughout the season.

The Backups

Donovan Bonner has all the talent, but has never been able to stay healthy. If he can, he's a major factor. The Tigers are likely to play five linebackers with Bonner joining the four above. Darvin Ruise should force his way into some time as well. Jared Parham and a trio of incoming freshmen provide depth.

What to Like

Missouri is loaded with experience, thanks to a fifth year for Lambert. Gooden is a budding star on the outside and Ruise looked like a phenom in fall camp last year. The Tigers have plenty of options at the position, even before looking at an incoming class with three backers. The Tigers have shown they are likely to play a freshman at this position, mostly on special teams. Kentrell Brothers is our early favorite for that spot.

What to Wonder About

It really comes down to this: Can they stay healthy? Lambert, Ebner and Bonner have all battled the injury bug multiple times. Gary Pinkel said last year he had never had a position be hit so hard by injury as the linebackers were a year ago.

The Expectations

Gooden has a great shot at all-Big 12 honors. Whether it's Ebner or Lambert, the middle isn't a concern. Can Wilson match Gooden on the other side, or will Bonner or Ruise step forward? The Tigers should be solid at linebacker. If Missouri wins ten or more, Gooden could be in the mix for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Nobody covers the Tigers year-round like PowerMizzou.com. All of our previews leading up to the first practice will be free content. If you are not yet a member, just try out our free trial.

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