Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers got a scare over the summer when a rumor started on Twitter he had been kicked off the Missouri football team.
“I’m like, ‘I did? I’m going to call (assistant) coach (Barry) Odom, because he didn’t tell me,’” Brothers said.
Luckily for the Missouri defense, Brothers was present and accounted for Thursday when fall camp began — and in no short supply of motivation.
In fact, Brothers suspected his venting about what was sparking that motivation might have inspired someone to start the rumor.
“I went on a little Twitter rant all summer,” he said. “So that could have been connected to it.”
Among his tweets during the offseason included one June 19: “Man.. The people who have helped build Mizzou football to the powerhouse that it is need more respect.” Another on July 8 read: “Man, never do I ever get the respect I deserve.”
Brothers’ complaints weren’t appeased any when Southeastern Conference media days took place in late July. Brothers, who was named second-team All-SEC after his 122 tackles last season, fell to the third team on the preseason All-SEC team, compelling him to tweet, “Adding fuel to the fire.”
“I was kind of upset,” he said. “I just don’t understand how you can go from, like, second-team All-SEC during the season to preseason third team. That was just kind of surprising. That’s like taking Ohio State from preseason ranked one and putting them, like, five. I mean, they’re national champions, so why don’t they stay one? But it’s something that I definitely need to ignore.”
Brothers was one of just two Tigers to be voted preseason All-SEC. Center Evan Boehm matched Brothers with a third-team selection — and a subsequent “fuel to the fire!” tweet.
Although, Brothers didn’t mind the Tigers being picked to finish behind Georgia and Tennessee in the SEC East despite winning the division the past two seasons.
“Well, we like when they do that,” he said. “We love that. Thank them all. We love them all for that. We like being underdogs.”
As if Brothers needed another chip on his shoulder, the 6-foot-1 senior was not voted a captain by his team Thursday before camp.
“I was kind of disappointed,” he said. “But then again, they picked four great seniors (Boehm, Russell Hansbrough, Ian Simon and Kenya Dennis), so whether I’m a team captain or not, I’m still going to lead as much as I can.”
Brothers is part of a two-man tandem that makes linebacker one of the most experienced position groups on Missouri’s roster. Junior Michael Scherer racked up 114 tackles last season, which trailed only Brothers among returning SEC players. With the defensive line losing All-SEC defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden to the NFL, and projected starters Marcus Loud and Harold Brantley to dismissal and injuries, respectively, the linebacking corps could be key to Missouri’s defense remaining a force.
“(Brothers) has played a lot of snaps,” said Odom, who is the new defensive coordinator. “Experience. And I would never trade experience for anything. He practices well. He’s got a good feel for his position and his responsibilities. He and I talk all the time about taking it to the next level, his game … and that has to come through repetition and through practice, through working hard within how we practice every day.”
Brothers did get some recognition over the offseason, landing watch-list spots for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player) and Butkus (top linebacker) awards. He feels he has gotten quicker and stronger in the offseason but still believes he has big strides to make in the film room. Not to mention another key area.
“I definitely need to be a better teammate,” he said. “More vocal. I do a great job leading by example, but I need to be more vocally sound for the teammates, so they know that I’m here, and that I really care about this team.”
However, the garrulous Brothers did bite his tongue for once when a reporter asked Thursday whether he might do more blitzing this season under Odom.
“You asked me that in spring ball and got me in trouble, so I can’t answer that,” he said. “But just wait and see.”