clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Let’s preview Safeties: Is this the best position on Missouri’s roster?

It’s time to look at the secret sauce of Mizzou’s defensive success.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s fall camp time! As your Missouri football Tigers begin their fall practices to get ready for the season, Rock M Nation will begin going through each position to take stock of the depth and project the position for the season.

Today we assess the position group with arguably the best starters and most unproven depth: the safeties.

The Returning Starters

Louisiana Tech v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Starting Safety Snaps

Jaylon Carlies played the most snaps on Mizzou’s defense last year and Joseph Charleston was only 115 behind him. They will helm the starting free and strong safety spots to start the season, no doubt. Daylan Carnell was a havoc dynamo off the bench and started earning more time as the season went on, so much so that it’s nearly a lock for him to take over Martez Manuel’s old role.

The Transfers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Florida at Florida State Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Tre’Vez Johnson & Sidney Williams Stats

Tre’Vez Johnson played 1,046 snaps as a Florida cornerback but seems to be taking to the various safety roles now that he’s at Mizzou. Sidney Williams earned lots of playing time at Florida State in his first two years but saw his usage dwindle to almost nothing last year and portalled over to the good guys.

The Returning Backups

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 19 New Mexico St. at Missouri
Tyler Hibbler and Isaac Thompson Stats

Tyler Hibbler appeared in 35 snaps over 4 games last year while seeing most of his usage in the New Mexico State game. Isaac Thompson was recovering from a catastrophic injury he had in high school and only appeared on defense for two snaps on the year.

The Freshmen

Marvin Burks, Jr. is a 4-star local boy from St. Louis’ Cardinal Ritter High School and seems to have quickly acclimated to the college game (if fall reports are to be believed). Phillip Roche is a continuation of the surprising Indiana recruiting pipeline and, while undersized, has had his name called out a few times during various practices.

BK’s Breakdown:

I feel like every time I start a breakdown of a defensive position, I start by saying something along the lines of “This could be Missouri’s best defensive position by the end of the season.”

I’ll save my breath and your time. But, yeah, that applies here, too.

I’m not sure Missouri has a more intriguing blend of talent and depth at any position on the roster than it does at safety. The group is as versatile as it is proven. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how the coaches convinced all of these players to stay on campus. There are only so many snaps to go around. Either the Tigers are going to be doing a whole lot of rotation this season, or someone (multiple someones?) are going to play less than they thought.

Let’s start with the positions because labeling everyone in this category as a “safety” is a bit misleading.

Missouri plays three positions regularly that could all be defined as some kind of safety. They have two “deep” safeties and a STAR. The two deep safeties are what you’ve seen on a football field for as long as you remember watching football. The “STAR” position is, well, whatever you want it to be.

Missouri had Martez Manuel and Daylan Carnell at STAR last season, both of whom are at their best when they’re playing in the box and coming downhill against the run. So, guess what, that’s what Missouri had them do. Smart coaching, if you ask me.

Missouri has some new options at that position this season, though. Both Florida transfer Tre’Vez Johnson and Florida State transfer Sidney Williams have the ability to play STAR, but in a different way. Williams brings some physicality, but he’s a better coverage player at this point in his career than either Carnell or Manuel were last season. Johnson is a pure slot corner, and those skills could be vital when the Tigers go up against teams that spread out the defense, such as Tennessee.

Having the ability to match up your personnel to best counteract what your opponent wants to do is a nice way to coach in 2023.

Moral of the story, Missouri has options. And that’s just at one of the three safety slots. The Tigers are expected to have Jaylon Carlies and Joseph Charleston as their starting deep safeties but don’t be surprised if Johnson, Williams, Marvin Burks or Phillip Roche see some time deep, as well.

The Tigers are remarkably deep at safety heading into this season. More than it has been at any point under Eli Drinkwitz. That depth should serve them well. Carlies has missed portions of camp with a nagging injury. Charleston had moments last year where he did look a bit vulnerable. I’m the president of the Carnell fan club, but there are certain matchups that might not be ideal for him. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker will go into the year with the chess pieces he’s been looking for.