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Sophomore defenders are making noise on the Missouri depth chart

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Adam Sparks could be the Tigers’ top cornerback by the fall, while Aubrey Miller Jr. and Joshuah Bledsoe are carving out their own respective niches.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Missouri
Adam Sparks
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomore linebacker Aubrey Miller was mostly a scout team and special teams player in 2017, but Missouri has given him some looks at his actual position so far in spring camp. “He understands, really from that [special teams] role and taking it, we’re not counting on him being at this point an every down player, which is not a bad thing right now for him,” Odom said.

Odom is excited about Miller’s development, and both he and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters praised inside linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves for helping him along the way.

“Vernon’s done a good job on coaching him and getting him to slow down a little bit,” Odom said. “Don’t try to do too much, process what you see and then be able to react to it. It’s happening for him and he’s getting better everyday.”

In just his sophomore season, cornerback Adam Sparks is already making the transition to being a No. 1 corner. He appeared in all 13 games last year, started the last eight, and set a Missouri true freshman record with two interceptions.

“He’s confident. He’s a lot bigger than he was last year, he’s put a lot of work in the weight room in the offseason,” Walters said, expressing that he was impressed with the sophomore’s consistency. “He’s a guy that I feel like can be an every down, ‘you go cover him, and we’ll go figure out how to stop the rest of them’ type corner.”

Joshuah Bledsoe is another young member of Mizzou’s secondary who saw a lot of playing time in his freshman campaign. While he didn’t produce as much as Sparks did, he appeared in 12 games and gained valuable experience.

“I think he’s picked up where he left off last year, being a really good player for us down the stretch,” Odom said. Bledsoe has shown versatility by being able to play at the nickel, dime and high safety spots.

“For a young guy, he understands really every spot and understands there’s not too much that we’ve thrown at him that he hasn’t been able to grasp,” Odom added. “His football IQ is pretty high, but also he enjoys to play ball. He’s kind of soaking it up and taking care of himself, but also putting himself in position that for us, as a staff, we know that we’re a lot better when he’s on the field.”

Missouri will need these key young pieces, among others, to continue to hone their abilities to avoid another slow start defensively come fall.