COLUMBIA — Walking down the stairs onto the field at Devine Pavilion on Tuesday, Sean Weatherspoon was rapping out loud to the song “I’m on a Boat” by Lonely Island.
Later, during a defensive drill, when a coach signaled a play that had the word dog in the call, Weatherspoon barked obnoxiously.
Spring intrasquad game
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Faurot Field
ADMISSION: Admission: $3 or three canned/boxed food items benefiting the Central Missouri Food Bank; MU students get in free
It was business as usual for the senior linebacker.
The care-free attitude Weatherspoon displayed Tuesday is something the Tigers' players and coaches have grown used to during the past four years. “Spoon” as he is called by many players and fans, is the unquestioned vocal leader on the defense.
“When it’s time for us to go, he’s going to talk. He’s a natural born speaker,” senior Jaron Baston said. “That’s him and we love it.”
Last year, Weatherspoon led the Tigers with 149 total tackles and was a third-team All-American selection.
This season, Weatherspoon will have an even bigger leadership role. The Tigers lost several key defensive players to graduation, including Ziggy Hood, William Moore, and Stryker Sulak. The Tigers also lost defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who is now a linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns. Coach Gary Pinkel promoted linebackers coach Dave Steckel to the defensive coordinator position this season.
Weatherspoon says he enjoys being the voice of the defense.
“That’s my nature to come out here and have some fun. Make sure everybody else is having fun,” Weatherspoon said. “But when things aren’t going right, I’ll be the first guy in somebody’s face. When we're having a good time, I’ll be loudest guy you hear.”
Luckily for the Tigers, Weatherspoon did not join his good friend and teammate Jeremy Maclin in this year's NFL draft, which is April 25-26. Weatherspoon passed on a fancy salary to finish his college career and earn his degree at MU.
“The NFL isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Weatherspoon said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people at Pro Day and things like that, and everybody has said it was the best decision to come back here.”
Weatherspoon was told that if he had decided to turn pro, he would probably be drafted around the third round. While Weatherspoon is disappointed he won’t have Maclin around this season, he is still happy for his old teammate.
“I talked to him last night. He’s taking some trips here and there,” Weatherspoon said. “On April 25th, I’ll be at his house in St. Louis and we’ll probably have a little get together. It will be at great day for him and Mizzou.”
Last season, the hype surrounding the Tigers football team was at an all-time high. The team was coming off a Cotton Bowl win with returning offensive stars Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, and Maclin, and the defense was returning 10 of 11 starters. Missouri fans dreamed of a national championship.
But it never came together for the 2008 Tigers. The defense struggled throughout the year, yielding 286 passing yard per game, the third most in the nation. Also, the offense didn’t click when it mattered, such as on the final drive in their loss to Oklahoma State and in routs against Texas and Oklahoma.
Weatherspoon says he is not worried about what happened last season.
“I expect the secondary to be a lot more physical (this season). These guys have been making a lot more big hits and making a lot more interceptions than this time last year (at spring practice),” Weatherspoon said. “It’s on the D-line and linebackers to get to the quarterback though.”
This year's decreased expectations could affect the turnout at Saturday’s annual Black and Gold game.
“There probably won't be a lot of publicity and hype,” Weatherspoon said, noting the game is not on ESPN like last year. “I think the true fans will be out there having a good time supporting Mizzou football.”
For some of the players, Saturday’s scrimmage is personal. Proving doubters wrong begins on Saturday.
“I want everyone to know this Missouri team, we’re not going anywhere. We’re here to stay as a top team in the nation,” Baston said. “ Last year, I heard some comments that said after Chase Daniel leaves, that Mizzou will go back to old Mizzou. That’s not how it's going to be. Mizzou is here to stay.”