January 7, 2009

It starts with defense

On December 8th, linebacker Joshua Tatum signed his letter of intent to play for the University of Missouri. The City College of San Francisco transfer will arrive in Columbia on January 17th, and he is looking to make Missouri's defense as powerful as their offense.

"With next year's group of guys, I definitely think we have the firepower to do so," Tatum said. "I am going to bring a lot of intensity to the game. I am just an old school, smash-mouth linebacker.

"I think that with Sean Weatherspoon, Brian Coulter and getting guys like Sheldon Richardson, we have a good chance to build the defense up and just continue on with greatness. It starts with recruiting and getting the biggest and most talented guys. The way Missouri's defense plays next year will only make it better and make guys want to come to the school and be a part of greatness."

Similar to the rest of Missouri's students, Tatum will begin classes later this month and hopes to pursue a degree in the business school. According to the linebacker, part of the draw of Columbia is the people that surround the program. After visiting with friend and fellow teammate Jarrell Harrison, Tatum said he fell in love with the city and the fans. It was the family atmosphere that eventually caused him to sign with the Tigers.

"I definitely like the team chemistry, you know the comradery," he said. "They were a close-knit family with the coaching staff. I really like the humility between the players, and it just seemed like a family. All of the coaching staff has been together for over seven years or however long. They were straight shooters and did not beat around the bush. They were stand-up guys, and I can identify with that."

Along with Tiger fans everywhere, Tatum was also happy to hear that Sean Weatherspoon is staying around for another year. The two have become good friends according to Tatum.

"We talk almost every two days now," the linebacker said. "As soon as I get down there, I will be living with him until I get my own place. I think we complement each other pretty good because we are both fast guys you know, around the 6-foot-1, 235 lb. range. If you look at Pro Bowl linebackers, a lot of them are 6-foot-0 or 6-foot-1. That passion for the game is what I love about him (Weatherspoon). I will be able to learn the defense from him because I will be staying with him, so it's a plus."

Tatum said that he does not believe that making the transition to the Big 12 will be too hard because of his experience playing against teams that run the spread when he played in San Francisco.

"At the end of the day, football is football. If you're a good football player, you can adjust to a different setting," he said. "The biggest adjustment is going to be becoming a hermit and getting in that playbook, and you know not going out to the parties and stuff. I have two years, so it's about getting focused on being the best football player I can be as well as student athlete in the short time I have and to give it all I got."

Although the football season just ended for the Tigers, Tatum said he is very excited for the moment when he gets to put on the black and gold.

"There is something special about being a Missouri Tiger," Tatum said. "That black and gold symbolizes a lot. It's magical. I have watched every game this season that they have played. It's just something about them. They come with a lot of passion and a lot at stake.

"I think next year we will be giving it to guys. Not taking anything away from last year's team, but we are going to work very hard in the off-season, and it's always about getting guys that play at a high level and practice at a high level. Competition is everything. I will be competing with Sean Weatherspoon. I will be pushing him, and he will be pushing me. I can't wait to get down there, so we can immediately get it going. And it starts with defense."

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