Missouri senior strong safety Braylon Webb is a man of few words, which is fine with Gary Pinkel.
“The best form of leadership is, No. 1, lead by example,” said Pinkel, who has coached the Tigers to 102 victories, the most in program history. “That’s the best form and then, if you want to, be vocal. But I’ve seen some great leaders that didn’t say a whole lot. Brad Smith didn’t say a whole lot.”
And so it is with Webb, who is the unquestioned leader of Missouri’s secondary this season.
It’s a title he inherited by default in some ways as the only returning starter after free safety Matt White and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Randy Ponder graduated.
Of course, Webb also has earned that status through his play.
Webb has started the last two seasons for Missouri. He finished sixth on the team with 64 tackles as a sophomore before emerging as one of the Tigers’ most consistent defensive playmakers last season, finishing second on the team with 89 tackles and three interceptions.
“When you’ve got a guy back there that plays to his level and the consistency of his level, he’s turned into a really, really good player,” Pinkel said. “I think there’s a sense of calm back there when you’ve got a guy who’s a leader and he doesn’t make mistakes. He also kind of corrects things if calls get out of line, so he’s a real asset to our football team.”
Webb said credits the veterans on Missouri’s roster from his freshman and sophomore seasons for helping mold him into a budding star and he’s happy to impart those lessons to a new generation of Tigers.
“I learned work ethic from Xavier Gooden and Kenronte Walker, making sure I’m maximizing my opportunity to get better every day,” Webb said. “I was just watching those guys. Now, I make sure to go get other guys when I go work out or, when I watch film, I make sure I bring a couple of them along with me.”
Sophomore cornerbacks John Gibson and Aarion Penton saw extensive action in spot starts and a reserve role, while junior Ian Simon, who is the projected starter at free safety, was Missouri’s primary nickelback last season.
Nonetheless, Webb knows that the secondary is looking to him.
“The corners played a little bit, but of course I have to step up more (as a leader),” Webb said. “I have to be that guy the rest of the secondary depends on and I have to be accountable. I have to show them the right thing to do in situations back there.
“We need a lot of young guys to step up, so getting them playing time and getting them reps and experience is going to be key,” Webb said. “We had a lot of production leave, so everyone has to step up.”
Webb said he’s making a conscious effort to be more vocal this spring and looking toward the 2014 season, but he’s still content to let his play do most of the talking.
“Hopefully, I can make an even bigger leap,” Webb said of his upcoming senior season. “I’m trying to get my name out there in the mix with a lot of the top guys at my position.”