ShowMeMizzou.com finalizes our position reviews with a look at the 2104 Missouri secondary. As a group, the Missouri secondary in 2014 was about as good as the Tigers have had under Coach Pinkel. In some ways, it was maybe Missouri’s best secondary under Coach Pinkel.
In 2014, the Tigers had depth in the secondary. Nine defensive backs played regularly, and three other ones saw limited action in the secondary, played significantly on special teams, and appeared to be ready for larger roles.
The captain of the defense, and indeed one of the captains of the team, was senior safety Braylon Webb, who was the most-experienced safety in the SEC. He had another very productive season, his best season as a Missouri Tiger, and finished the season with 70 tackles, including 2.5 tackles-for-loss, to go along with 4 interceptions, 3 pass-break-ups, and 2 fumble recoveries. In 2014, Webb was a big play-maker. One of the biggest plays he made all season was a fourth-down stop late in the game at Texas A&M to keep the Aggies’ tight end out of the end zone, preserving the Missouri lead, and keeping the Tigers’ division-title hopes alive. He seemed to come up big every week. Following the season, Webb was named Second-Team All-SEC (AP, SEC coaches).
His running mate at safety was junior Ian Simon, who had moved into the starting role following the 2013 season. Webb and Simon formed the best safety tandem Missouri’s had in several years. Although his tackling could be better, Simon can run and is pretty good in coverage. He finished the 2014 season with 54 tackles, including 1 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble, came up with an interception, and had 3 PBUs.
Early in the season, junior Kenya Dennis forced his way into the starting line-up at corner, and he just continued to get better throughout the season. By season’s end, Dennis was playing at an all-league level. He was also very productive, and finished the season with 61 tackles, including 4.5 TFLs, 0.5 sacks, and a QB hurry. He also came up with an interception, and registered 9 PBUs, and a forced fumble. Dennis was very good in coverage and a physical presence and sure tackler on the edge.
The other corner position was very well-manned by Aarion Penton. The sophomore finished the season with 36 tackles, including 2 TFLs. He was second on the team with 3 INTs, and he led Missouri with 10 PBUs. He also forced a fumble. He’s another one who is very good in coverage, and who brings a physical presence in setting the edge.
Junior corner John Gibson played a lot, as well. He too, is very good in coverage, and as the season went along, he improved his physical presence as an edge enforcer. He finished the season with 32 tackles, including 1 TFL, and he also had 4 PBUs.
On most Saturdays, the Missouri defense featured a nickel back as the Tigers’ primary defensive alignment. Consequently, Duron Singleton saw plenty of action. On the season, the senior made 52 tackles, including 2.5 TFLs, and 1 sack. He also came up with an interception, and he came up with a scoop and score of a fumble. Singleton was a big reason why the 2014 Missouri secondary might be the Tigers best yet under Coach Pinkel, as he brought a level of physical play to the nickel back position that the Tigers hadn’t previously been able to put on the field. The only chink in Singleton’s armor was that as the season wore on, he was targeted, and got picked on down the field in coverage. Teams would scheme to try to get Singleton matched up with their best receivers, and his deficiencies in pass coverage were exposed. But overall, he was the best Missouri’s had under Coach Pinkel to play that position.
That is at least until his back-up took the field, and began to play more and more. By season’s end, I thought that Thomas Wilson, who had played increasingly throughout the season as Singleton’s back-up, was playing better than Singleton. He displayed better coverage skills, and he’s nearly just as physical. The true freshman finished the season with 17 tackles, including 1 TFL, and he also had 1 PBU. Wilson was one of just a handful of true freshmen to play in 2014, and he was the one who saw the most time, and who played the best.
Two other corners saw game action for the Tigers in 2014, including junior David Johnson and true freshman Logan Cheadle. But with as well as Missouri’s top three corners were playing, there simply wasn’t a lot of playing time for these two, although they did see a lot of action on special teams. On the season, Johnson made 5 tackles, including 1 TFL, and he forced a fumble. Cheadle made 1 tackle.
Back-up safeties Anthony Sherrils and Cortland Browning saw limited playing time in the secondary, in addition to playing extensively on special teams. The speedy Sherrils, Missouri’s fastest player, made 13 tackles in 2014. Browning, who was injured late in the season, made 4 tackles in 2014, and he was also credited with a PBU.
Two young safeties played extensively on special teams, including red-shirt freshman Shaun Rupert (1 tackle) and sophomore Chaston Ward (5 tackles).
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart for the Missouri secondary looked like at season’s end. CB 7 Kenya Dennis 6’0” 200 (J) 3 David Johnson 5’11” 190 (J) 28 Logan Cheadle 5’10” 175 (F) 31 Finis Stribling 5’11” 180 (F)
CB 11 Aarion Penton 5’10” 185 (So) 1 John Gibson 6’0” 185 (So) 29 DeAndre McKenzie 6’1” 185 (J) 14 Ray Wingo 6’0” 175 (F) 46 Trei Walton 6'0" 190 (J)
SS 9 Braylon Webb 6’0” 205 (S) 2 Duron Singleton 6’1” 210 (S ) 22 Anthony Sherrils 6’0” 195 (RSF) 43 Michael Godas 6’0” 210 (So ) 6 Tavon Ross 6’0” 200 (F) 5 Cortland Browning 6’1” 205 (J) (injured)
FS 21 Ian Simon 6’0” 195 (J) 8 Thomas Wilson 5’11” 185 (F) 19 Shaun Rupert 6’1” 185 (RSF) 13 Chaston Ward 6’1” 205 (So) 16 Brock Bondurant 6’2” 215 (So)