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Playing time for young defenders improves depth for season

Sunday, September 20, 2009 | 9:04 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – A pair of Missouri reserves benefited from Missouri's blowout win Saturday against Furman.

Missouri linebacker/safety Zaviar Gooden and cornerback Trey Hobson got substantial playing time, which isn't surprising given the Tigers led 42-0 at the half.

Gooden and Hobson didn't see garbage time, however. Coach Gary Pinkel called on them early in the game to rotate in and out of Missouri's defense.

For Missouri, defensive rotations help develop strength at each position.

"I would say everybody on the defense has been splitting time with someone so we can get depth," sophomore linebacker Andrew Gachkar said. "So that's what we're trying to do in the non-conference games. Both of those guys (Gooden and Hobson) can come in, give relief to players like me and some other players so we can keep our defense fresh."

Gooden lined up as a strong-side linebacker. Hobson split time with Kevin Rutland at cornerback. Hobson had four tackles, and Gooden added three.

Missouri has reason for wanting to get more players experience, especially in the secondary. Senior safety Hardy Ricks, who is still recovering from an ankle sprain, was not available to play. Pinkel hopes he will return for Friday's game at Nevada.

Additionally, safety Jarrell Harrison came back from an injury just in time to play against Furman.

"A couple people got banged up, but we always got people that step up and just fill the spot," Gooden said. "We've got great depth on this team, got a lot of athletes."

Gachkar said the ability to move players around comes from recognizing athleticism.

"They're bringing in such good recruits now, and everyone's just so much better, that guys can play any position," he said. "Even if they don't know the plays as much, they can get in one or two plays because they're just so athletic."

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said the Furman game presented a need to make a quick defensive adjustments.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "Like today, Luke (Lambert) didn't play much. He kind of had a little injury. Will Ebner had to step in and play a lot today and that was big, and he led the team in tackles. You've got to grow up real fast. Hopefully our depth will be settled and in good shape by the time we roll around to conference."

Despite the youth of players like Hobson and Gooden, Gachkar said the team puts them in a position to succeed by playing them.

"The coaches can't be scared to put players out there, and right now they're not," he said. "People say we're young, but we do have a lot of depth right now."


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