“I think we’re making progress,” said Coach Ford, talking about his corner backs. “They’re tiny steps right now. We’ve got a few guys who have been here, and need to make the next step. And we’ve got some young guys that are pushing, and are trying to get on the field. And you can tell that right now, because we’re kind of making inexperience mistakes at times. But they’re fighting, and I think their motor is good. But there’s just some subtle things, some fundamental things, that we’ve got to get cleaned up.”
One of Coach Ford’s corners, Ernest Payton, has been moved to safety.
“It wasn’t that he couldn’t play corner,” explained Coach Ford, talking about the move of Payton to safety. “It’s where’s the best position for him to play? We think that physically, he’s probably better suited (to play safety). Because of his size and speed, I think that he will be more suited (to play safety)…………………………………………………. It might give him an opportunity to get on the field a little quicker.”
According to Coach Ford, thus far this spring, the Tigers have been focused on playing within their base defense. Missouri’s base defense includes three linebackers and four defensive backs. Missouri has a couple of ways to get a fifth defensive back on the field in place of a third linebacker. When they bring in an extra corner, it’s referred to as their dime package, and when the fifth defensive back is a safety, the personnel package is called a nickel.
During the spring, Missouri will also look at both their dime and nickel packages. The decision of whether to play a nickel or a dime will ultimately be determined by whether Missouri’s third corner is better than their third safety or vice versa.
“Right now, we’re just trying to see who our best linebackers are,” explained Coach Ford. “Right now, we’re using our base (defense). When we get back from break, we’re going to start to add in our safeties, and see who is the best guy there. And then, we’re going to find that corner, and see who’s the best guy there……………………………………… We’re just trying to find out who are those guys that we want to put into those positions, so that when we get to the season, we know who we’re working with.”
E.J. Gaines and Randy Ponder are currently listed as the starting corners. Coach Ford identified David Johnson, Xavier Smith, and John Gibson as the primary challengers for the starting spot currently held by Ponder, and the key back-up spots.
Coach Ford summarized the current status of his position personnel.
“That’s pretty much the group,” said Coach Ford. “You’ve got (E.J.) Gaines and Randy (Ponder), and then those three, (David) Johnson, Xavier (Smith), and (John) Gibson.”
“He’s probably the most physically talented of the group,” said Coach Ford, speaking of John Gibson. “He might be the (most physically talented) of all of them, even Gaines, from a quickness and speed standpoint. But there’s still some of the finer things that he needs to learn. He’s getting there. He’s a little headstrong a little bit, so we’ve got to kind of work him to get him there. But he’s got a lot of talent, and if he listens, and continues (to learn), which he will eventually, we’ll get him there. But, I can see him being in the mix this year.”
“I like our two young kids that are going to come in here,” added Coach Ford. “It’s just a matter of how quickly can they learn it. But (Aarion ) Penton and (Anthony) Sherrils could be two guys that you might want to keep your eye on.”
It’s obvious that Coach Ford is really excited about, and looking forward to, adding his two very talented recent signees to the mix at corner. It’s also clear that he thinks they may have a chance to play right away.