The Tigers have lost some important players in the secondary from last years squad, including safety William Moore who will likely be selected high in the NFL draft. With only one returning starter, the competition for the remaining spots has been very tight this spring.
Carl Gettis has been practicing hard and is really trying to lead by example. "Some of the younger guys who don't have much experience on the field, they are going to look to me for leadership," Gettis said after practice on Tuesday. "They look to me for how to do certain techniques and to explain certain plays and coverages in a game-like situation. I think that it is really important that I step my game up so that they can learn from me and experience from me."
Last season Gettis started all 14 games at cornerback while he tallied 78 tackles and broke up 4 passes. The two time All-Big XII honorable mention is preparing to shut down some of the top receivers in the conference this season, but he is not alone.
Cornerback coach Cornell Ford is very excited about the depth that the Tigers have in the secondary. "This is the best competition that we've had since we've been here," Ford said as he enters his ninth year at Mizzou. "We're six deep, and I'm just talking at the corner position. We've got six guys who can go in there and play for us and it is my job to get them all ready because you never know what might happen. But I expect all of them to play."
At cornerback this season, Carl Gettis will be starting on one side with redshirt freshmen Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards behind him on the depth chart. Kevin Rutland sits atop the depth chart at the other cornerback position with hard hitting sophomore Trey Hobson and Notre Dame transfer Munir Prince right on his tail.
So far, one trait that has really impressed coach Ford has been the team speed in the secondary. "We're extremely fast. We're fast and athletic. We are trying to keep things simple so the guys do not really have to think, they can react. We're just going to play fast because that is to our advantage and I think that's our best attribute."
Coach Ford definitely sees the potential of this secondary. "If we can just be disipline and be on time and not give up any big plays and then keep leverage on the outside versus the run, we'll be pretty good."
Carl Gettis agrees with his coach and believes that his unit can be real difference makers come fall. "We've got a lot of playmakers here. There have been a lot of guys making big plays this spring."
Carl knows that there is still work to be done. "We're still having a couple of breakdowns on the big play. We've got to fix that to stop some of these big plays from happening." According to Gettis, that problem may fix itself over time though. "We're all gelling together because were kind of a young team right no so, we're continuing to gel and get our chemistry."
The fact that he is the only returning starter does not seem to effect Carl's confidence in his teammates. "We can be as good, if not better (than last season) in the secondary. We've got Spoon coming back, Hardy Ricks, Kenji Jackson. We've got a lot of playmakers coming back."
One player that has really stood out this spring is Jarrell Harrison, the strong safety transfer from the City College of San Francisco. He began the spring at the bottom of the depth chart, but now is playing with the second string. "(Harrison) started at the bottom and has worked his way up which says a lot about him, his maturity," Coach Ford said. "I like his input to the defense. I think he's a playmaker, a real physical kid which I like. He is going to be a great addition to our defense."
With all of the youth and competition in the secondary, Cornell Ford knows that he will need a player to take charge on the field, and that man is Carl Gettis. "Carl's experience is valuable back there. We need his leadership because we've got a lot of young guys that haven't played and just to have an experienced guy back there, just to settle things down if things get out of hand."
The secondary this season we know will be young, and we know will be fast, but how will they do this fall against the likes of Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford trying to throw the ball by them? Will experience be a factor? These questions and many more will be answered this fall when the Tigers suit up for another highly anticipated season.