In the spring, 6’3” 207-pound sophomore defensive back Ernest Payton had moved from corner back to safety. But after Spring Football, Payton told the Missouri coaching staff that he wanted to move back to corner, where he said he felt more comfortable, so he began Fall Camp 2013 back at his old position.
Although corner back appears to be much more crowded, with at least a handful of players vying for the opportunity to start opposite senior E.J. Gaines, Payton has quickly moved to near the front of the line. He talked about his decision to move back to corner.
“At safety, I wasn’t getting too much action,” explained Payton. “I’m more like a man-to-man guy…………………………………….. I tried it out (at safety), because they wanted me at safety. Whatever was going to get me on the field, that’s what I was going to do. Then after spring ball, I talked to coach, and I was like, I don’t like safety. I want to go back to corner. I believe I can make a big impact at corner.”
The competition for the starting corner back position opposite Gaines, and for the other top jobs at corner back, has been too close to call, and as always, it’s ongoing. But, Payton has performed well, and heading into the final week of Fall Camp, Payton has been working with the number one defense.
“(Earnest Payton) has had a really good camp,” said Assistant Coach Cornell Ford, who coaches Missouri’s corners. “He’s made great progress! The only thing, is we just want consistency. And, we’re seeing it. We just need to see it day in and day out.”
Payton explained that the time he spent working with safeties coach Alex Grinch this spring has helped him improve as a corner. The red-shirt sophomore reported a 4.50-second time in the forty-yard dash, to go along with his 42” vertical. He also reported a personal best of 16 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press.
According to Coach Ford, the playing rotation and the two-deep at corner is not set, and the competition between several of Missouri’s corners is very, very close. But at this point, it appears that Payton will play this season. He could win the starting job.
“(Earnest Payton) has really done well,” explained Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, as he talked about the trust that the coaches must have in their defensive backs. “A corner that size almost scares you, because there’s very few corners that are as big as he is. Really, can he cover? Really, can he play the position? Because, he’s got more like safety size, and if you put a few pounds on him, he could probably play linebacker. But, he’s doing well overall. (At that position) when you make a mistake, everyone is going to know it……………………………………………….. Thus far, he’s doing really well.”