There is so much potential in Missouri’s safety group for a breakout star to emerge in 2016.
The unit lost senior Ian Simon, a three-year starter, at the free-safety spot, but the Tigers appear loaded with athleticism and talent.
It starts with perhaps the fastest player on Mizzou’s roster, strong safety Anthony Sherrils.
Don’t be surprised if Sherrils, a Hogan Prep graduate, receives some sort of All-Southeastern Conference honors come December and hears his name called in April as an early entry into the NFL Draft. That’s his stated goal.
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Consistency is the only thing holding Sherrils back from emerging as an elite safety, but with a year’s experience under his belt that might come this season to the chagrin of opposing quarterbacks.
Sherrils isn’t the only Tigers safety to keep an eye on. Read more in The Star’s preseason position breakdown:
Returning starters: Anthony Sherrils, junior.
Other returning contributors: Cam Hilton, sophomore; Tavon Ross, sophomore; Thomas Wilson, junior.
Newcomers: DeMarkus Acy, freshman; Ronnell Perkins, redshirt freshman; Greg Taylor, sophomore.
Projected 2016 starters: SS Sherrils and FS Wilson
Outlook: Sherrils led the secondary and finished third on the team with 64 tackles last season, including 41 solo stops and four tackles for a loss. He also had one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, while finishing third on the Tigers with six pass breakups. Those are good numbers, but Sherrils is aiming much higher in 2016. He knows he left some turnovers on the table a year ago and hopes to become more of a playmaking machine as a junior.
Sophomore Cam Hilton started his Mizzou career as a safety, but he switched to wide receiver last because it was more of a position of need with Ian Simon and Cortland Browning on the roster. Now that both have graduated, Hilton is moving back to safety and might have the inside track to start along with Sherrils on the back end of the Tigers’ defense. Hilton made nine catches for 129 yards last season and also saw action as a punt and kickoff returner.
He’ll have competition for the free-safety spot from junior Thomas Wilson, who’s played in 25 games during the last two seasons and has been championed by coaches as the most consistent player through fall camp. Depending on how safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ryan Walters views the competition, sophomore Tavon Ross also could be in the mix along with junior college transfer Greg Taylor. Finally, freshman DeMarkus Acy and redshirt freshman Ronnell Perkins are young and athletic prospects who add depth to the position.