When Dedrick Harrington was recruited, he knew it was possibility.
He had the framework.
He had the mentality.
Now he has to make the adjustments.
In Missouri’s modified defense, Harrington moved from outside safety to inside linebacker.
The Tigers unveiled the change with the start of spring practice March 4.
“I was always told that I was going to be the size and the strength of a linebacker, and here I am,” Harrington said. “I know the coaches were thinking about it eventually. But, we took it slow and this ended up being the position for me.”
In 2003, Harrington started 13 games at rover, a hybrid of linebacker and safety. He had 64 tackles, including 11 for a loss. Harrington posted a season-high nine tackles against Texas A&M on Nov. 15 and was named to the Big 12 Conference All-Freshman team.
Harrington, who is 6 feet 3, 227 pounds, replaces Brandon Barnes at inside linebacker. Barnes finished last season with 109 tackles.
“With his size he’s a little bit like Barnes was when we moved him there,” linebackers coach Dave Steckel said. “The good thing is we’re getting him at an earlier time.”
Barnes, 6-3, 220, switched from free safety to inside linebacker his senior season.
Harrington redshirted his freshman year because of a sprained left ankle. He will have three years at the linebacker position.
“I think he’s doing really well,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s only been there about five or six practices so it’s going to take some time, but he’s athletically at the place he should be. He should be a high level player. We just want him to be that way as fast as he can be that.”
Pinkel also hopes that Marcus Bacon and David Richard will add depth to a defense ranked seventh against the run in the Big 12 last season, allowing 167.2 yards per game.
Bacon switched from outside safety to outside linebacker. Richard, a former tailback from Michigan State, made a similar move.
“There’s a lot of athletes at a very important position,” Harrington said. “Everybody can move. Everybody can hit. Everybody can do pretty much everything at that position. So linebacker is pretty much loaded in depth.”
Nevertheless, Pinkel said the adjustment period for the players can be slow at times, and Harrington agrees.
“I’m doing decent,” Harrington said. “I can’t say I’m going out and making every play, but I’m doing a few things right and trying to learn everything.
“I’m just pacing myself, not trying to rush it, but I just want to work hard and master this position. I know that I have a lot to improve on and get better at, but that’s all going to come in time. I just have to be patient with it.”
In addition to learning sets and plays, Harrington said the linebacker position requires him to be more physical and faster. He’s always around the ball. He’s always hitting linemen, but he’s also has to defend the run and the pass.
“It’s a different environment in there and I think he’s doing a very good job of adjusting,” Steckel said. “Things happen faster when you’re inside in the box versus being outside on the perimeter.”
Harrington will start alongside James Kinney, who had a team-high 141 tackles last season.
Henry Sweat, Derrick Ming and Emmett Morris Jr. are also competing for one of the two inside positions.
“They don’t measure your defense by how strong guys are, or how fast they are, or how tall or how heavy, but how they play,” Pinkel said. “They’re working very hard and we’re expecting them to make a big impact on making our defense better.”