COLUMBIA — The number zero annoys Missouris Braylon Webb to no end. To him, its a reminder of a season gone wrong, one where he started all 12 games and didnt record an interception.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
I think about it every day man, said Webb, a junior safety from Gilmer, Texas. I had my hands on a couple, but I just didnt come up with them.
Webb isnt the only Tiger to think about that number. His position coach, Alex Grinch, does too, perhaps because senior Matt White, MUs other projected starting safety, also didnt intercept a pass last season, albeit in reserve duty.
The issue is we need more production from the safety position, period, Grinch said. Its pass breakups at times and interceptions and a lot of that stuff, you cant control. But when youre in the position to make a play, weve got to win some battles.
Grinch is hammering this point home at every opportunity. He did so after Missouris first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday, when Webb deflected two passes but cost his team with one mental error in which he was late getting to the sideline, allowing Jaleel Clark to catch a pass and power through Webb for a 65-yard touchdown.
He graded out at 91 percent, but you take one play off and it costs seven points, and that cant happen, Grinch said. Theres a major, major lesson, not just for him but for the entire secondary (about what can happen) when youre not expecting the ball to be thrown.
White sat out the scrimmage because of a strained groin, but his replacement sophomore Ian Simon caught Grinchs eye.
I think Ian is positioning himself as a guy that can be a starter in our program, Grinch said. Thats how I envision him. Hes got to put himself in position to be one of the top 11 guys for us and in my opinion, I dont think thats far off.
Grinch will also continue to take a close look at the rest of the backups, including sophomore Cortland Browning, junior Daniel Easterly, redshirt freshman Chaston Ward and freshman Shaun Rupert.
But one player who stands to make an impact is Duron Singleton, who was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 junior college safety in the country during the last recruiting cycle. He was cleared by the NCAA on Friday and has just started practicing.
Grinch is excited to see Singleton, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound New Orleans native, who had 87 tackles and four interceptions last season at Fresno City Community College.
Hes a physical player if you evaluate his high school film, he will strike you, which is obviously a good quality, Grinch said. Hes pretty fluid in the hips and he has fairly good coverage skills.
Singleton is not eligible for a redshirt year, so he has to make his two years of eligibility count. That means hell likely contribute this year at either safety position or even on special teams.
You just dont magically show up and have it all down, so weve got to get him caught up, Grinch said. Were meeting extra with him, hes champing at the bit. If there are 105 guys playing right now and you ranked them from most excited to least excited, hed probably be No. 1 on the list.
Grinch said Singleton should be able to work in full pads Thursday, when the Tigers hold the second of three preseason scrimmages.
In the meantime, Grinch will also keep coaching his other guys hard and holding them accountable for mental errors, just like he did with Webb on Saturday. The unit must be better, period, and that effort starts with experienced players like Webb.
Hes better than that, Grinch said of Webb. Thats not him and it wont be him. Now weve got a clip of film to coach off of and learn from.