COLUMBIA — When Tracy White took over as head coach of Bleckley County High in Georgia last season, one of the first things he did was stick his wildly talented quarterback — a junior named Tavon Ross — on defense.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
“Too good an athlete,” White said. “I don’t know why he wasn’t playing both ways before, but we were going to keep him on the field as much as we could.”
It sure didn’t take long for Ross, who recently became Missouri’s 20th commitment for the Class of 2014, to make his coach look smart. In his first game last season, Ross — a 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety who played last season at linebacker — was sent on a blitz off the edge.
“He just got on the field and start hitting people,” White said. “The first game we put him there, he knocked the quarterback out. It was maybe the first blitz we ever called for him, and he knocked the quarterback out of the game. He don’t mind hitting.”
White said Ross had offers from Marshall, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State and Georgia Southern. Ross is listed as a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and a two-star prospect by Rivals and Scout after scoring 20 touchdowns as a quarterback and leading his school to an 8-3 record in Georgia second-smallest classification.
“Several of the other big conference schools were talking to him seriously but hadn’t pulled the trigger,” White said. “Georgia, Clemson, Auburn … a bunch of them would tell me they were close to offering but Missouri was the first to do it.”
White said Ross, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and also power cleans over 300 pounds, liked the way Missouri and safeties coach Alex Grinch, his lead recruiter, came after him.
“He’s never been out there but he liked the way they recruited him,” White said. “They didn’t pressure him. He liked they way they stayed in touch with him but didn’t hound him.”
Provided he sticks with his commitment, Ross will join 2013 quarterback Eddie Printz as the second player from Georgia to commit in the last two years. He is the 10th player from the Southeast to commit in the class, joining five players from Florida, three from Tennessee and one from Mississippi.
“These college coaches, they’re not stupid,” White said. “A kid like Tavon, who likes to hit and run, they see one of them and they put them over there on defense and let him loose.”
White doesn’t think Ross will have a difficult transition to strong safety for Bleckley County, either. White said Ross has looked good in seven-on-seven drills this summer and thinks he has the ability to play the position in college, too.
“His best days at safety are ahead of him,” White said. “He’s a strong safety for us, he’s on the line a bunch, but people spread us out and throw it, he can cover. He’s just an athlete, one of those guys who can play anywhere you put him.”