Veterans dominate yet another Mizzou positional breakdown. The Tigers return a top-tier safety tandem and have young backups with great potential.
The Tigers secondary was arguably the most improved position group on the team last season, and the safety position was a huge plus for the defense. The secondary ranked second in the SEC in pass defense and played exceptionally well when they were healthy.
Losing Ronnell Perkins hurts, but his position fill be filled in nicely. Missouri quietly has one of the better safety duos the country may see this season.
SS1: Tyree Gillespie- 6’0, 210 lbs (Sr.)
Games Played: 12
Total Tackles: 50
Gillespie has been a consistent and dependable player for Mizzou at the strong safety position for the past two years. The physicality and the endless motor that Gillespie possesses makes him stand out when watching Mizzou football.
The most impressive thing about Gillespie is his ability to be at the right place at the right time on the field. That instinct is the reason he finished with the second-most tackles on the team last year at 50. Gillespie is a tremendous tackler and rarely ever allows the opposing player to get by him in one on one situations.
However, Gillespie can improve on his ball-hawking skills. He had a couple of games with multiple pass breakups, but some of those could have been interceptions which completely changes games.
If you’ve missed any previous installments of this series, check them out here!
SS2: Jalani Williams- 6’2, 195 lbs (Fr.)
Games Played: 2
Total Tackles: 1
Williams entered Mizzou last year with some significant buzz. ESPN ranked Williams as the No. 284 prospect in the 2019 class. The impressive size and athleticism that Williams boast is clearly why he was highly coveted coming out of Parkway North.
Mizzou was stocked up at this position last year and that played a big reason why Williams didn’t see much playing time. Even though Williams will not start this year, there is a good chance that he sees a significant increase in playing time this season.
FS1: Joshuah Bledsoe- 6’0, 200 lbs (Sr.)
Games Played: 12
Total Tackles: 49
With a breakout year last season, Bledsoe established himself as one of the best safeties in the SEC. Bledsoe and Gillespie teamed up to wreak havoc upon opposing offenses throughout the year.
Bledsoe’s freakish athleticism allows him to fly all over the field and make plays. Bledsoe came just behind Gillespie last year in total tackles at 49. The impressive ball skills that Bledsoe possesses is why he had a team-high 10 pass breakups last season, the only safety in the conference to record double-digits in that stat.
FS2: Martez Manuel- 6’1, 200 lbs (So.)
Games Played: 12
Total Tackles: 4
The local product from Rock Bride High School found a way to contribute immediately last year for the Tigers. Manuel appeared in all twelve games last season, with most of the appearances coming via special teams.
Manuel’s IQ is a big reason why he saw playing time so early in his career. Understanding the playbook, paired with his natural instincts, made it hard for the coaches to not play him.
For the 2020 season, Manuel will still be a major contributor on special teams and might see an uptick in his playing time. It is only a matter of time before Manuel becomes the next elite Mizzou defender.