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  As Missouri football struggled on offense much of the 2019 season, the Tigers' defense gained experience and helped keep several games close. Defensive standouts like Jordan Elliott, Cale Garrett and DeMarkus Acy have gone on to the NFL, but a few stalwarts from a year ago have returned to Columbia and loom large for the Tigers as they prepare for a pandemic-altered, Southeastern Conference-only schedule this year. Perhaps the biggest luxury the Missouri defense has going into the 2020 season is its safety duo of Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie, who feed off each other in a way that benefits the Tigers' last line of defenders. Bledsoe is projected as the starting strong safety, while Gillespie has switched to the boundary safety position, vacated by Khalil Oliver and Ronnell Perkins, which is designed to free him up to move all over the field depending on formation.

MU defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said Friday the battle for the starting free safety position is between Columbia native Martez Manuel and redshirt freshman Jalani Williams. Missouri's 4-2-5 defense, implemented over the course of the past two seasons, is now the norm for the Tigers. That structure wouldn't hold together as well without the maturity and experience of Gillespie and Bledsoe. "I think they can be the best safety tandem in the SEC and in all of college football as well," Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton said. "You got two very athletic guys, very smart guys, stocky safeties...They got more experience from last year to this year with a different type of scheme. And then, adding on from last year to this year, I feel like they're going to have two big years. "They're essential for us being good on defense." - Columbia Daily Tribune

(DS#9 FS) Sr/2021 FS Joshuah BledsoeMissouri
News Source: Columbia Daily Tribune



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