The 2010 season will be remembered as a year in which Missouri's pass defense was dramatically improved over previous editions. A big part of that improvement was in the play of the Tigers' secondary.
For one thing, heading into 2010, the Missouri coaching staff determined that the DBs on the team were capable, in terms of both talent and experience, of playing a more aggressive coverage style. And, by the time fall camp arrived, it became apparent that the players had taken to the new approach like ducks to water.
In 2010, the Tigers returned both starting CBs, in seniors Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. Each of them enjoyed the best seasons of their careers, and both received recognition as All-Big 12 Honorable Mention for their play. Most of the time, teams stayed away from Rutland.
Early in fall camp, a pair of sophomores, Kip Edwards and Robert Steeples, held down the back-up CB spots. By the time the season had gotten underway, Edwards had solidified his position as the number three CB, and true freshman, E.J. Gaines, had dented the two-deep depth chart, and was splitting second team reps with Steeples.
Edwards entered the game on passing downs, when Missouri went to their dime package, and early in the season, it became obvious that this was Missouri's best trio of corners in recent memory.
By week three of the 2010 season, Gaines had passed Steeples on the depth chart, and for the rest of the season, the talented freshman saw ever-increasing action, backing up Gettis, and eventually, filling in for the injured Kevin Rutland.
By season's end, Gaines was playing extensively, and about as well as any of the Tigers' corners.
Heading into fall camp, junior safety Kenji Jackson was facing stiff competition for a starting job. By season's end, Jackson had collected 66 total tackles, and 2 INTs, as a stabilizing force in Missouri's secondary. Jackson started every game for Missouri, and was probably Missouri's surest tackler, as well as one of the Tigers' hardest hitters.
Senior safety Jarrell Harrison began the season coming off of the bench, after having undergone an arthroscopic repair of a torn meniscus in the middle of fall camp. He entered the starting line-up in week two, and by season's end, Harrison had collected 69 total tackles, and 2 INTs. In 2010, Harrison started Missouri's final 12 games, and along with Jackson, the two Tiger safeties gave Missouri a reliable and productive pair of safeties. For his performance, Harrison was named Big 12 Honorable Mention.
Senior Jasper Simmons started against Illinois, in week one, then played as the Tigers' primary back-up at both safety spots. But, Simmons missed some games due to suspensions, then was ultimately dismissed from the team, for repeated violations of team rules.
Simmons' suspensions, and dismissal, opened the door for a pair of red-shirt freshmen, Tavon Bolden and Matt White. Both of the youngsters seized upon the opportunity, and performed well enough to earn ever-increasing playing time, behind Jackson and Harrison. White displayed very good coverage skills, and a nose for the football, while Bolden is developing a reputation as a heavy hitter.