COLUMBIA — For the first time since 2009, Andrew Wilson will not be on the field for the Missouri Tigers. For one half, anyway.
The fifth-year senior linebacker is suspended for the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s game at Indiana after delivering a forearm to a Toledo receiver’s head on Sept. 7.
Fortunately for the staff preparing the Tigers’ depth-chart, the Hoosiers’ breakneck offensive game plan will force Missouri to run its “nickel” package for most of the game, which features one fewer linebacker in the starting lineup. Donovan Bonner and Kentrell Brothers — typical starters in Missouri’s base defense — will fill those spots, but there is still a hole to fill opposite Darvin Ruise on the second string.
Enter redshirt freshman Michael Scherer.
“I’ll try to approach it like it’s just any other game,” Scherer said. “One-hundred yard field. Fifty-three yards wide. Same exact thing.”
Scherer said he is capable of doing his job Saturday but admitted that he is no Wilson.
“You can’t replace a guy like Andrew, no matter who you put out there,” Scherer said. “He’s a captain. He’s arguably the best player on the defense. … There’s nobody you can put in and say, ‘Oh, Andrew Wilson is gone. It’s all right. We’ve got this guy.’ But I’m going to do my best to step in and do what I can do to make sure there’s no dramatic drop off.”
One good thing about the timing of Wilson’s suspension is that it came right before a bye week for Missouri, so Scherer has had an extra seven days to catch up. The senior has also been doing his best to mentor the freshman.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Wilson said. “He’s a really smart football player. He hasn’t had a lot of experience, but he’s real smart, so he’s going to do a great job. Mike and I have always talked about the game plan, and I’ve done everything I can to help him since he’s been here.”
Wilson, a captain, won’t sit by idly during the first half, either. He plans on providing plenty of vocal support and will help Scherer and the others with the correct reads.
“It’s definitely weird,” Wilson said. “I’ve never done anything like that. Being on the sideline is going to be tough, but it’s part of it.”
The extra coaching will help, but Wilson can’t make a physical impact on the game until after halftime. He said he was shocked when the referee threw the flag on him for targeting on Sept. 7, and even though he understands the rule, he won’t alter his style.
“I’ve got to play within the rules,” Wilson said. “But I’m not going to change the way I play at all.”
His temporary replacement is certainly focused on not making the same mistake.
“One of the main things is aiming towards the hips and making sure you wrap up,” Scherer said. “If you look through the NFL and college, most guys that are getting kicked out don’t even attempt to wrap up or anything. I think that kind of makes it a little easier to throw somebody out or throw a flag on them.
“If you tackle the way you’re supposed to tackle, the way you’ve been taught, I don’t think it would be a problem at all.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.