In 2008, The Big XII was one of the toughest conferences in the nation, and without doubt the top offensively speaking. Teams like Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas had some of the best offenses in the country, and are bringing back that talent. Colt McCoy, Zac Robinson and Todd Reesing will lead three of the most feared passing attacks against the Tigers this year, which is why the secondary is such and important factor for Missouri's success. Today we will look at the second part of this unit: the safety position.
Gone is former Mizzou standout William Moore who was selected in the second round of April's NFL Draft. Also departed is Justin Garrett, who started all 14 games last season at strong safety. Two new starters will take the field in 2009, leaving many wondering how good this defense really will be.
Much like the cornerback spot, several players will get the opportunity to earn playing time. The likely starter at free safety will be Kenji Jackson. Standing 5-10, 195 lbs, Jackson was a bit of a surprise in 2008 as a true freshman. Jackson was able to get on the field for each of the teams 14 games and recorded 62 tackles, good for 7th on the Missouri team. Kenji also had two interceptions as well as a forced fumble. While he may not be the biggest man on the field, Jackson can cover the whole thing. He is very quick and versatile, both of which are important attributes to have as a free safety in the Big XII.
One player who has really impressed coaches this summer is transfer Jasper Simmons. Simmons transferred from Hutchinson Community College this year after starting at safety for the two prior seasons. Jasper is 6-1, 205 lbs. and has a lot of strength. During the scrimmage this past Saturday, Simmons had an interception and a devastating hit on back-to-back plays. He is in a situation where he can really earn some valuable playing time in 2009.
Del Howard is another player who has the capability to not just see some playing time, but potentially start a few games. In 2008, Howard saw action in 13 games, recording 41 tackles with a season high 9 against Oklahoma. Del is a very powerful player and can definitely lay some game changing hits in the upcoming season.
Veteran Hardy Ricks will likely be the starting strong safety come fall, since he is the only player with any experience on the depth chart. Ricks is considered by many as the hardest hitter on the Tiger's roster, and a fearless leader. He had 39 tackles in 2009, however he did not start a single game after starting a combined 12 times during his freshman and sophomore years.
Another player who has really made a name for himself during the offseason is transfer Jarrell Harrison. After transferring from the City College of San Francisco, Harrison climbed the depth chart in a hurry and currently sits second. Jarrell is 6-2, 210 lbs. and a beast on the field. In 2008 at CCSF, he recorded 118 tackles and 5 interceptions while starting at safety.
There is a lot of at the safety position even though the Tigers lost both starters from a year ago. The question that remains is are any of these players good enough to handle the offenses of the Big XII?
Position Preview: Safety
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