MIZZOU FOOTBALL 2016 POSITION PREVIEW: SAFETY
One of the best things the Tigers have going for them here is second-year safeties coach and Co-Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters.
Missouri is also really talented at the position.
Listing the safety depth at the beginning of Fall Camp from top to bottom, I think it will look something like this:
Returning starter, Anthony Sherrils, will almost certainly open Fall Camp on the top line of the Depth Chart. Sherrils is coming off of a terrific 2015 season as a first-year starter. He's the second-leading returning tackler on the Missouri defense, and he had a 50-yard interception return last season, in addition to 6 more pass-break-ups. But those of us who watched realize that Sherrils dropped at least a handful of other interceptions, including a couple of game-changers that he likely would have returned to the house. So while Sherrils was fantastic as a sophomore, he could have been better, and I expect that he will make those improvements going forward. He has a chance to be Missouri's best safety in a long time. Many around the program, including Sherrils himself, believe that this will be it for the Missouri red-shirt junior, as he intends to make himself available for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Heading into Fall Camp, it appears likely that Thomas Wilson will be atop the Depth Chart at the other safety spot. Wilson has seen considerable action the last two seasons as a nickel back, and at times this spring, he was the best safety on the field. Still, he’ll have to hold off some formidable challengers.
Near the top of the list of challengers are Cam Hilton and Ronnell Perkins. Perkins is coming off of an impressive Spring performance. He's physical, athletic, and a sure tackler who can run. Hilton, who earned playing time at safety last August, before switching to offense where he saw action as a true freshman in the slot, is another serious challenger for a starting safety job.
Finally recovered from his second ACL surgery in two years, Tavon Ross will be a factor in the competition, as well. He's a tremendous talent, but so fr in his Missouri career, he's had trouble staying on the field.
Two very talented newcomers will enter the mix, including true freshman DeMarkus Acy, and the long-awaited but just-arrived junior college transfer, Greg Taylor. Either of these near-elite level talents could force their way onto the field.
Transfer Kaleb Prewitt won’t be eligible to play this year, so he won’t really be included in the depth until the Spring. Prewitt's another near-elite level talent, one with considerable experience. He'll definitely be a factor a year from now.
To begin Fall Camp, here's kind of what the Depth Chart might look like at the safety position:
22 Anthony Sherrils 6’0” 200 (J)
3 Ronnell Perkins 6’0” 185 (RSF)
16 Brock Bondurant 6’2” 215 (S)
17 DeMarkus Acy 6’1” 178
8 Thomas Wilson 5’10” 190 (J)
7 Cameron Hilton 6’0” 180 (So)
6 Tavon Ross 6’0” 200 (So)
14 Greg Taylor 5’10” 205 (So)
35 Zane Jacoby 6’4” 206 (RSF)
4 Kaleb Prewett 6’1” 204 (J)
I’m interested in seeing what the Missouri defense will look like with Coach Odom as head coach and Coach Cross as defensive coordinator.
Coach Cross spent the off-season putting his stamp on the Tigers' defensive schemes and techniques. Players are still being crossed-trained to play each position within their position group. Under Coach Cross, it appears that there is more of an emphasis, especially in the back seven, on training the players how to "use their eyes" to diagnose plays and flow to the ball. Last year, we saw Kentrell Brothers use his eyes to take diagnosing plays to another level. I think Coach Cross wants seven Brothers back there.