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Recruiting Reset: Joseph Charleston is a Swiss army knife safety

The former Clemson starter should allow Blake Baker to get creative with how he lines up his safeties.


The transfer portal is an interesting beast. It’s hard to keep track of all the players on your favorite team, much less the hundreds of players who annually enter the portal looking for a new team.

How does one evaluate the players your favorite team adds? Is it about recruiting pedigree? Past performance, regardless of level? How much does one consider the program the player is coming from?

The truth is all of it matters. Coaches know this. They take calculated risks based on their assessment of all of the above. But when Missouri adds a player who saw significant snaps on a team which played for the national championship, well, that tends to raise some eyebrows.

Joseph Charleston was a starting safety for Clemson in 2020 when the Tigers went 10-2, ultimately losing to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.

He entered 2021 splitting time as a starter in the Clemson secondary, but ultimately saw the writing on the wall early in the season when he found himself behind Nolan Turner and freshman phenom, Andrew Mukumba. He announced his intentions to transfer before the first month of the season came to an end.

Charleston, looking for a better fit with more playing time available, decided to change his stripes. The former Clemson Tiger is now at Mizzou, ready for a second chance.

Where he fits: Charleston exclusively played safety in his time at Clemson, and the same is likely to be true at Mizzou. He has your typical safety size at 6-foot and 200 pounds. He’s very similar in stature to Martez Manuel, Tyler Hibbler and Tyler Jones.

Where he fits within that group is going to be interesting. He can fit into just about any safety role, and played all of them at Clemson. You can use him in the box, he can play single-high, he can work in a split safety role or you can put him in the slot as needed.

In other words, he’s basically a chameleon at safety. His ability to play all over could help new defensive coordinator Blake Baker mask coverages pre-snap. That’s a valuable chess piece to have.

When he’ll play: You don’t bring in a junior defensive back to sit him on the bench. Charleston should be expecting to play right away. The question is where, and how often. Mizzou is pretty loaded with experience on the back end with last year’s safeties Jaylon Carlies and Martez Manuel returning for 2022. Jalani Williams, who saw some playing time a year ago, also returns. The Tigers also have former 4-star recruit Tyler Hibbler, who could fit into the mix at strong safety or as an option in the box.

One possibility - especially in sub-packages - is using Carlies in single-high with Charleston at strong safety and Manuel lining up in the box where you would typically have a linebacker. This could be a base “nickel” look for the Tigers. It plays to the strengths of all three safeties, and allows Manuel to attack downhill against the run or to rush the passer as an extra blitzer.

What it all means: Charleston is a unique player who could allow the Tigers to do be more creative on the back end. Smart and talented safeties are hard to come by. Having three experienced players on the back end is going to be critical to the defense’s success in 2022.

Charleston shouldn’t be expected to come in and completely change the defense on his own. But the skillset he brings to the table could allow the Tigers to get more out of those around him.