COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Missouri linebacker Eric Beisel has waited patiently over the last three years for an opportunity to showcase his abilities.
Now, less than desirable circumstances have given him that opportunity, and he is making the most of it.
In a 51-45 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 22, Missouri senior linebacker and leading tackler Michael Scherer suffered an ACL injury, ending his collegiate career five games early. In a 35-21 loss to Kentucky a week later, senior linebacker Donavin Newsom suffered a thigh contusion that has sidelined him ever since.
''It means a lot to not have them as much as we have had them in the past, and it really makes you realize what you had,'' Beisel said. ''Both of those guys are two of my good friends. We've grown close over the years. They're great leaders, great teammates.''
Scherer said the toughest part about not being able to play is his inability to help his teammates on the field, but that he hopes to help players like Beisel in other ways.
''The truth is, the defense we're running now, I've played a lot of snaps in and I know a whole lot about it,'' Scherer said. ''It's a tough position they're in right now, but I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help them out.''
Now in his junior year, Beisel discussed his changing role within the program.
''I've taken the opportunity to step up as a leader,'' Beisel said. ''The more I've played and the more successful I've been, people have been looking toward me for advice and momentum. ... It's rewarding.''
A St. Louis native, Beisel chose Missouri over Arkansas, Kansas State and Nebraska, among others. At home games, No. 38 leads the Tigers out of the tunnel and onto Faurot Field carrying the state flag, an honor coach Barry Odom selected him for.
''I gladly accepted,'' Beisel said. ''I've been a Missouri fan my whole life. I love the university of Missouri, I love the state of Missouri and I thought if I leave my talents here then I could take my team to a championship.''
During his first two seasons, Beisel had 22 combined tackles. He made his first career start against Kentucky this year, tallying five tackles, three of them for losses. Last Saturday in a 31-21 loss to South Carolina, he led the Tigers with 14 tackles, including two for losses.
Despite his personal success, Missouri (2-7, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) has struggled, and is on an 11-game conference losing streak.
''It would be rewarding to me if we were winning right now,'' Beisel said of his own accomplishments. ''The statistics don't matter. What matters is winning for the university, for the state of Missouri and for all the fans who remain loyal to us.''
Teammates and coaches are not surprised by Beisel's recent success.
''Eric is the type of guy ... you actually won't see him, but you already know he's putting in work because he'll do it late at night, and it's showing on the field right now,'' Newsom said. ''After practice, I'm in here eating, like, starving, and he's out there running back and forth doing footwork drills.''
Beisel's next opportunity to add to his tackle count will be Saturday when the Tigers host Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4 SEC).
''He understands the playbook,'' Odom said. ''He's playing well. He's playing fast ... I'm proud of him and I anticipate him having three really good weeks here coming up.''
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