Preview: Breaking down Missouri’s defense by position

The Tigers allowed 388.5 yards per game in 2018.
Senior cornerback DeMarkus Acy intercepts a pass during fall camp on Faurot Field. Acy had three interceptions during the 2018 season. Madeline Carter

Despite losing key defensive players like Terry Beckner Jr. and Terez Hall, Missouri brings back a strong lineup that has three seniors at the top of the depth chart. Last season, Missouri finished No. 22 in the nation for rushing defense.

"Defensively I want to be able to stop the run and try to find a way to force turnovers," Odom said before the team's first scrimmage.

Linebacker

Senior Cale Garrett headlines the linebacker group after leading the team in tackles last season with 106 and in 2017 with 99. Garrett is a member of the Preseason Coaches All-Southeastern Conference First Team.

“I think we can be a championship level defense,” Garrett said. “It starts with the want to make the play and the want to to do your job, and I think if we do that we’ll be alright.”

As a freshman, Nick Bolton played in every game and recorded 22 tackles last season for the Tigers. He will play alongside Garrett during the 2019 season at the other linebacker position.

Juniors Jamal Brooks and Aubrey Miller Jr. are currently listed as the backups to Garrett and Bolton.

Cornerback

Senior DeMarkus Acy recorded three interceptions last season, which tied for the team lead with Cam Hilton. His breakout season helped his selection to the Preseason First Team All-SEC coaches poll.

Juniors Christian Holmes and Adam Sparks will also play cornerback and each recorded an interception last year. Holmes returned an interception for a touchdown in a 65-33 win against Memphis last year. Sparks was sixth on the team in tackles despite only playing in eight games.

“I think we got a core group of guys right now at that position who can step in and play,” Odom said. “Now, to raise the expectations on how they play and how they play consistently, that’s what we’re really focused on because they do have a skill set that I think is gonna allow us to do some things coverage wise that maybe we haven’t been able to in the past.”

Defensive End

Sophomore Trajan Jeffcoat and junior Chris Turner currently top the depth chart at defensive end for Missouri. Redshirt junior Tre Williams may also be in the mix after starting six games last season before being suspended indefinitely after an arrest in December.

“I feel very strongly about how we handled this case and how we’ve handled every one that we’ve had since I became the head coach,” coach Barry Odom said.

Defensive Tackle

Returning junior Kobie Whiteside and redshirt junior Jordan Elliot are looking to have breakout seasons up front. Elliot recorded three sacks last season and Whiteside had two tackles for loss.

“[Elliot] understands what it takes, the urgency to be able to play consistently,” Odom said. “He is as skilled of a guy that we’ve had at that position. Now we gotta show it every single Saturday.”

Safety

Graduate student Khalil Oliver and senior Ronnell Perkins will play safety for Missouri. Oliver finished with one fumble recovery and appeared in 13 games for the Tigers last year. Perkins also appeared in every game and recorded two tackles for loss.

Joshuah Bledsoe tops the free safety position after recording two pass deflections last year. The junior out of Houston recorded a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Tennessee in a 50-17 win.

At strong safety, the Tigers list junior Tyree Gillespie at the top spot. After seeing limited action in 2017, Gillespie recorded 48 tackles in 13 games last season.

“Right now [Gillispie's] our starting safety," Odom said. He's super athletic. He's 215 pounds, runs and jumps high and all those things. But also his football knowledge is something that he's put a lot of time into and he understands how to play the position.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments

0 comments

This item does not have any approved comments yet.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.