Columbia, Mo. When Marcus Bacon made the transition from the defensive backfield to linebacker two years ago, he admits there was some trepidation.
"I never played linebacker in my life," Bacon said. "You have big lineman coming at you - I didn't know how to react most of the time."
Apparently, he has learned. Bacon leads Missouri and is second in the Big 12 with 16 solo tackles and 24 total tackles as the Tigers (2-0) prepare for their first road game Saturday at New Mexico.
The fifth-year senior from Houston had 12 tackles, forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and returned it 52 yards in a 34-7 win over Mississippi on Saturday.
Bacon also had 12 tackles and fumble recovery in a 47-7 win over Murray State in the opener on Sept. 2.
Coach Gary Pinkel said Bacon is quickly becoming more comfortable at a position he calls "the hardest to learn on the defense."
"He can just turn it loose," Pinkel said.
Bacon arrived at Missouri in 2002 as a big, hard-hitting safety. He was a red shirt that season and played the whip position in the defensive backfield in 2003.
But Bacon continued to grow - he's now 6-2, 220 pounds. Pinkel decided he was big enough to play linebacker and could bring speed to the position.
"He's got a real good knack for the football and he likes to hit," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. "That's two things you want in a linebacker."
Pinkel and Eberflus made the same decision to move Brandon Barnes before the 2003 season. He enjoyed a breakout senior season and has since played for the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins.