University of Missouri

What made Mizzou change its defensive scheme for the 2019 season, and who’s affected?

Ronnell Perkins on fall camp

Missouri boundary safety Ronnell Perkins talks about the team’s fall camp.
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Missouri boundary safety Ronnell Perkins talks about the team’s fall camp.

Barry Odom surprised a few reporters in the spring when he passed out Missouri’s latest football depth chart and had a defensive position titled “boundary” as a substitute to a traditional linebacker.

Boundary is the name of the defensive back who will also function as a hybrid linebacker. Mizzou senior Ronnell Perkins said the position functions similar to a strong-side linebacker, with some different responsibilities.

“It’s really the same position, we just added some wrinkles to it,” he explained.

Perkins and fellow senior Khalil Oliver have been rotating at boundary throughout preseason camp, which has made for one of the better position battles the past two weeks. Perkins is listed as the current starter, but defensive coordinator and safeties coach Ryan Walters said it changes daily.

“It’s 1 and 1A,” Walters said. “Haven’t really named a starter, they’ve been rotating in there with the 1s and 2s. They’re both good at different things and so it’s really hard to tell who’s playing better at times. I definitely see both of them getting a lot of playing time.”

Walters said the decision to switch Missouri’s defense from a 4-3-4 to a 4-2-5 mainly stemmed from college offenses’ continued adoption of 12 personnel, which involves two tight ends on the field with at least one functioning as a receiver, putting more stress on the secondary. Walters said Missouri needs athletes who can cover tight ends and drop into pass coverage.

Oliver said he’s never enjoyed playing a position more than the boundary, which he thinks brings out the best of his skill set. A graduate transfer from Oregon, Oliver said the position calls to diagnose plays, which gives him the responsibilities of a linebacker while playing as a member of the secondary.

The position is nothing new to Perkins, who has rotated between linebacker and safety throughout his career at MU. Instead of continuing to rotate, MU made a position that brings out his best traits. Oliver agrees with Walters’ assessment that he and Perkins bring different traits to the position.

“I think we both bring a level of intensity,” Oliver said. “I think we’re both very physical, we both love to hit, that’s why we are at that position. Perk is the type of guy to fly in there and hit someone, I tend to help guys get set up, and make the plays easier for everybody.”

Walters doesn’t plan to pick a starter for some time and might even let the competition go into Missouri’s game week as the Tigers prepare for Wyoming.

“It makes them push each other,” Walters said.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.