Two star recruits aren’t expected to come in and contribute right away. And they almost never start by their second year on campus. Both happened for Tyree Gillespie in his time at Missouri.
The former 2-star safety out of Ocala, Florida contributed right away on special teams and took over as the Tigers’ starting free safety midway through his second year on campus. His 2019 season was impressive, but his best work came early in his first game of 2020, against Alabama.
Tyree Gillespie is getting some (much deserved) attention after he accepted his invite to the Senior Bowl. He's been a stud this season.— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) November 16, 2020
This was one of his first big plays of the year; A pass breakup vs. Devonta Smith early in the first game of the season. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/Wh6HUZt8vl
The Tigers were never going to win that game against Alabama, but Gillespie did his part. He broke up passes against the future Heisman Trophy winner and he chased down an eventual top 10 pick in Jaylen Waddle... On the Crimson Tide’s first possession of the game.
Not a bad start to the season. By the end of the year, Gillespie had forced one of the highest incompletion rates among safeties in the country, per Pro Football Focus. His presence in the middle of the field is going to be missed, and it’s not something that will be easy to replace.
#IDP - Highest forced incompletion rate among draft-eligible safeties in 2020 per @PFF:— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) April 20, 2021
1. Tyree Gillespie, Mizzou - 33.3%
2. Ar'Darius Washington, TCU - 23.8%
3. Dwayne Johnson Jr, SD State - 23.1%
4. Chris Brown, Texas - 22.7%
5. Richard LeCounte, UGA - 20.0%#NFLDraft #FFIDP
Who will new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks turn to in order to make sure the back end of Missouri’s defense doesn’t take a massive step back? Let’s take a look at the top contenders.
The Favorites: Jaylon Carlies or someone not currently on the roster
Honestly, it’s hard to know who the favorite will be to start in place of Gillespie. Carlies reportedly spent the majority of the time as the deep safety throughout the spring. I suppose that means he’s the favorite. What does he bring to the defense? I couldn’t really tell you. Carlies was a two-way player in high school who committed to the Tigers as a safety. He spent the majority of his freshman season on special teams. He finished last year with a total of eight tackles.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Tigers look at the transfer portal for some more proven options at the deep safety position. If they don’t land one, Carlies should enter camp as the favorite to start in Gillespie’s old slot.
The Other Options: Chris Shearin, Jalani Williams, Stacy Brown, Shawn Robinson, Tyler Jones
Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of names. There will be a lot of competition in fall camp for both Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe’s vacant safety spots. Carlies and Shearin reportedly spent the majority of the time with the starters throughout the spring, but Williams could fit into the mix once he’s healthy.
Stacy Brown, Shawn Robinson and Tyler Jones are the sleeper contenders to steal some playing time. Robinson, the former starting quarterback, showed some natural feel for the position when he was thrust onto the field with little to no preparation late last season. Jones is a “thumper” who isn’t afraid to come down and make a big hit. Brown has made his way into the defensive backfield rotation the last couple years, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get some playing time once again.
What it means for Mizzou:
Safety might be the least settled spot on the roster. That’s what happens when you have two players who played as many snaps as Gillespie and Bledsoe did over the past three seasons. There will be plenty of competition to see who earns the starting nod at both safety slots.
If I was making a projection today as to who starts in Gillespie’s former spot in the first game of the year, I would go with Carlies. I’m still not ruling out an addition through the transfer portal, though.