COLUMBIA — Senior linebacker Van Alexander has been through this before.
It was announced Thursday that the injury to Alexander’s right knee during Tuesday’s practice was not a sprain, as was initially thought, but a torn ACL. The injury is one of several Alexander has suffered over the course of his career with the Missouri football team. Alexander suffered a sprained foot in the spring before his freshman season that required surgery and a groin injury which hampered him throughout his sophomore campaign.
“I really feel bad for him because he’s been through it,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “But he’s tough. He’s a tough guy and it’s going to take a great deal of rehab but he’s good enough to do it and the good news is he can be 100 percent by Illinois, 100 percent by the opening game and he will be.”
Pinkel said Alexander will have surgery on Monday.
The injury is a blow to a linebacking corps already severely lacking depth. Junior Sean Weatherspoon and senior Brock Christopher are the only linebackers remaining that have started more than one game.
“It hurts us a lot,” Weatherspoon said. “It really hurts the chemistry of the defense.”
But like his coach, Weatherspoon remained confident in Alexander’s work ethic.
“I’m pretty sure Van’s going to put in the work with rehab and everything to get back on the field at least by the second week of the season and maybe by the first week,” Weatherspoon said. “It does kind of mix up the chemistry, but it does give (sophomore linebacker) Luke Lambert an opportunity to step up, so he can feel comfortable with the No. 1 defense.”
Weatherspoon said he also thinks Alexander’s positive outlook will benefit his recovery.
“If you know Van he’s a crazy guy,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s always cracking jokes and making people laugh, and I didn’t see any change in him today. He’s always here for the team.”
WIDE RECEIVERS IMPROVING: The Missouri offense lost several key contributors from last season including tight end Martin Rucker and wide receivers Will Franklin, Jason Ray and Greg Bracey, who all saw significant playing time.
But quarterback Chase Daniel has been impressed with the new group’s performance thus far this spring.
“You look at Jeremy Maclin and he’s obviously getting a whole lot better,” Daniel said. “And Forrest Shock has really stood out too. Tommy (Saunders) has really made some plays, and Jared Perry especially when you look at him and what he’s been able to do, and we got a pretty good receiving corps.”