Missouri has a long line of players who have excelled at their respective positions and have individual traits that help make them stand out. You know, like Drew Lock’s arm strength or the athletic ability and quick twitch of a guy like Sheldon Richardson.
Which is a good starting point for this question: How would you build your ideal player? This week, we evaluate defensive backs.
- Ball Skills
Coverage: EJ Gaines; 2010-2013
EJ Gaines has never quite gotten his due. I mean, he was the number one corner on the best Missouri roster of all time. He was the top dawg in that secondary for a reason. Gaines was the closest thing Missouri has had to a shutdown corner since Roger Wherli.
Gaines was an average-sized corner, but he always played bigger than his frame indicated. He was always willing to get physical, too. He was extremely fluid in with quick hips that enabled him to bite down on routes and close the distance.
Gaines also has one of the single most dominant performances in Missouri history, in my opinion. In 2013 with a trip to the SEC championship on the line, Gaines shadowed future NFL star Mike Evans. Evans, who torched everybody in 2013 - including the Alabama defense for almost 300 yards receiving - was taken out of commission and held to his lowest yardage total of the season and career (just 8 yards).
That individual performance doesn’t get highlighted very often, but it’s just another reminder of how fun those defenses that featured Gaines were.
Tackling & Ball Skills: William Moore, 2005-2008
The tag teammate to one of my picks last week in Sean Weatherspoon, William Moore patrolled Missouri’s secondary for four impressive years. As a tackler, he finished with 280 career tackles which for a defensive back is really impressive. His 115 total tackles in 2007 is legitimately an amazing feat. He always shot out of a cannon, into the trenches without any second guess or extra thought. As a coach, you always want your safeties to be able to come down and play in the box and Moore was always more than willing.
From a ball skills standpoint, Moore is my pick because of the consistency in how he would always seem to find the ball. He had at least one takeaway every season, and every season he managed to get a pick-six as well. His four career pick sixes actually rank him second in the history of the Big 12.
The discussion about his 2007 season isn’t complete unless you also talk about all of the interceptions he managed to find. A staggering 8 (!!!) in one season! He ranks second in Big 12 history for single season interceptions with that mark.
Honorable Mention: Roger Wehrli; 1965-1968
Wehrli was a great player in his time. He was excellent at Missouri, leaving as an All-American before going to the NFL and becoming a Hall of Fame player as a professional as well. It’s not very long or particularly GOOD footage, but here’s some video of Wehrli returning kicks.
I wanted to show him some love, but at the same time, he wasn’t my choice as I think the others were simply better athletes.
Wehrli is obviously accomplished and was special in his own right. He was one of the first true “shutdown corners” and that deserves to be mentioned.