The Missouri Tigers will return most of their defensive backs for 2010, and appear to be poised to sign a number of DBs in February. In this report, I'll focus on the DBs expected to be on the roster heading into spring ball.
Returning starting safeties, seniors Jasper Simmons 6'1" 205 and Jerrell Harrison 6'2" 220, each made an immediate impact in their first season at Missouri after arriving in 2009 from junior college. Harrison transferred to Missouri in January of 2009, and moved up the depth chart during the spring. During fall camp, he continued to establish himself, but suffered an elbow dislocation during the team's final scrimmage, and missed the first two games. Harrison started the final six games, and registered 47 total tackles, 3 PBUs, an INT, and a safety. Harrison will be a leading contender to play a lot in 2010.
Simmons arrived at Missouri in June of 2009, and immediately made an impression with his speed and athleticism. Simmons took over a starting position for the second game of the season, and recorded 73 total tackles, 2 PBUs, 1 INT, and forced 2 fumbles. Simmons also served as the Tigers' primary kick returner in 2009. Like Harrison, Simmons will enter spring ball as a likely starting safety, and should benefit from an entire off-season of preparation for 2010.
Junior Kenji Jackson 5'10" 195 is another returning safety with ample game experience. Jackson started five games for Missouri in 2009, and backed up both safety positions during the second half of the season. He collected 41 total tackles, and had 1 PBU. Jackson is not the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but he is one of the smartest, and is a high-character young man with outstanding leadership qualities. Heading into spring ball, Jackson will be in the mix for a lot of playing time in 2010.
The Tigers return two RSF safeties, in Tavon Bolden 6'2" 205 and Matt White 6'0" 180. Both of these talented young players arrived at Missouri in June of 2009, and following their first fall camp, worked with the scout team during the season. The physically imposing Bolden has already earned a reputation among his teammates as a big hitter, and could eventually grow into an outside linebacker. During fall camp, and again during the early bowl practices, White has displayed good instincts and a nose for the football.
A January 2010 mid-year transfer from City College of San Francisco, Kenronte Walker 6'1" 210, will enter the competition at defensive back this spring. It appears that the junior will play safety, but he says that he can also play corner.
Speaking of corner, the Tigers return both starting corners from 2009. Seniors Kevin Rutland 6'0" 195 and Carl Gettis 5'11 195, each started all 13 games. Gettis recorded 61 total tackles in 2009, along with 5 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries, in addition to doubling as the Tigers' primary punt returner. Rutland had 47 total tackles, 2 PBUs, 2 INTs, forced 1 fumble, and recovered a fumble. It's almost certain that these two will begin spring ball listed as the starting CBs.
Their most immediate and primary challenger is sophomore CB Kip Edwards 6'1" 200. Edwards is very gifted, and saw increased playing time during the second half of the season. On the season, he registered 20 total tackles, 2 PBUs, and 1 INT. Edwards has potentially the highest ceiling of any of Mizzou's returning CBs.
Junior CB Trey Hobson 5'11" 190 is another challenger for serious playing time in 2010. He and Edwards will likely enter spring ball working with the second unit. In 2009, Hobson recorded 17 total tackles.
Sophomore Robert Steeples 6'1" 195, is another young, experienced CB. He registered 15 total tackles, 4 PBUs, and a forced fumble in 2010. After seeing considerable playing time early, Steeples gave way to the emerging Edwards later in the season. He will likely enter spring ball on the third team defense, but will once again be in the mix for playing time this year.
Senior DB Munir Prince 5'10" 185, saw action in 8 games, and recorded 6 total tackles, during an oft-injured 2009 campaign. The speedy Prince adds depth at both CB and safety.
RSF CB Randy Ponder 5'10" 185, walked on at Missouri last summer, and has drawn praise from Coach Pinkel for his ability. Ponder spent last season on the scout team, and will compete for a spot on the depth chart this spring.
Provided that are no player defections between now and then, Missouri enters spring ball with depth and experience in the defensive secondary. In addition, it appears that the Tigers will add several talented freshmen DBs into the mix this June.