Going into 2008, many expected senior safety William Moore to be the unanimous MVP of the Missouri defense after the season was finished. As it turned out, Moore battled injuries that kept him from having the kind of senior season that many though he could have. Moore still had great success in his college career, including a spectacular junior season that included 117 tackles, 8 interceptions, making 1st team All-Big XII and making 2nd team All-American in 2007. Even with his poor senior season, Moore was a 2nd round draft pick this April. Enter Kenji Jackson, a 5-10 sophomore from Mansfield, Texas who ranked 7th on the team with 62 tackles in 2008.
Moore in 2005: 26 tackles, 15 solo tackles, 1 interception
Moore in 2006: 53 tackles, 27 solo tackles, 1 interception
Moore in 2007: 115 tackles, 69 solo tackles, 8 interceptions
Moore in 2008: 70 tackles, 36 solo tackles, 1 interception
Something obviously wasn't right last year with William Moore and many believe that the nagging injury to his foot was the main reason he wasn't himself. Even with the injury (missed two full games and parts of two others), Moore was able to make an impact and record an impressive amount of tackles in 2008. Now that Moore is gone to the NFL, Tiger fans are left wondering how Kenji Jackson will be able to replace him. I'm here to tell you that this changing of the guard will probably end up with the best result in 2009.
The 2-star safety out of the Dallas area probably wasn't expected to do much in his freshman year, even by the defensive coaches. However, Jackson committed himself to being the best player he could be and it showed. He was so impressive in his true freshman season that he earned starts in four of the last five games. If you watched a lot of games last year and don't remember #13 flying all over the field and making great plays at the safety position, maybe you weren't looking hard enough.
The sophomore safety continued to impress in spring practices this year, flying all over the field to break up passes, make tackles and help in the running game. Coaches complimented his play after several practices and spectators took note of his playmaking ability. It was very apparent that #13 was feeling very comfortable in Dave Steckel's new system because he looked very relaxed in scrimmages and the spring game.
Jackson was very good last year for a freshman, but he must continue to improve if he wants to be a leader on the defense. One thing that could hold him back could be his lack of true free safety size, which could cause him to miss some plays that larger players could make. With that said, Jackson has the talent and the willpower to improve, so expect him to possibly be better than he was last season. As Tiger fans, you can expect that he will show exceptional range, ball skills and tackling ability in what was the weak part of the Tigers last year, the secondary.