For starters, read my defensive line preview if you like this article, and the rest of my articles on the team for that matter.
The linebacking core took a lot of hits this spring, as injuries and dismissals eliminated two linebackers from the team, and a starter from spring practices. However, with good depth and talent, this unit should be fine come the season.
With the dismissal of Marquis Booker, Connell Davis quitting the team, and Van Alexander tearing his ACL, the spring saw this unit get that much thinner. But Alexander should be back in time for the beginning for practice in the fall, so hopefully he'll be at full strength by the Illini game.
However, there were rumors floating around that sophomore Luke Lambert was going to take his starting spot or get a majority of the playing time, even before Van went down with the injury. Lambert played increasingly last season as a true freshman, and he has the size and tenacity to be a great player in the middle of the field.
With Lambert starting in place of Alexander, senior Brock Christopher and junior Sean Weatherspoon will start alongside him to complete the linebacking corps.
Christopher is a solid if not spectacular player who has a persistent motor and a knack for a big play. He might be the weak link in this corps—and that's saying something, because he's a damn good player.
Weatherspoon could be an All-American this year and might be the best linebacker in recent Mizzou history. He's got great tackling skills, nice speed, and will definitely cause receivers to think twice before going over the middle.
As mentioned, the only problem of this unit might be the depth. Steve Redmond and Andrew Gachkar are the only proven backups at this point. Redmond is only okay, and while the team likes Gachkar based on the special teams work he's done, he had a blood clot this spring, so he'll be cautiously entered back into the mix this fall.
Because of the lack of proven bodies, some true freshmen might see the field this year. Prep schooler George White was pretty highly touted coming out of high school a year ago, and although he's dabbled at DE, he could make an impact if given the chance this fall.
Another true freshman is Will Ebner, who has reportedly looked good in summer practices. He's got great size at 6'2'', 220, and might be one of those Texas sleepers that slips by most schools but can flat-out ball.
This area of the field might be a tough area for the Tigers in 2008, but it could also surprise some people and be the difference between a good and great team.
Because the Tigers use a speed-based defensive line, the LB crew has to step up and be good against the run. If Spoon and his boys can stay healthy and help control the line of scrimmage, this defense might be one of the most underrated around.