Jasper Simmons disputes the idea that teammate Hardy Ricks is a quiet person. Simmons, a junior safety, said some assume Ricks, a senior safety, is quiet because of his behavior off the field.
“When we get to competing and hitting and all that stuff, he get to talking,” Simmons said. “So I mean he’s really not quiet when it comes to playing football. Maybe off the field he quiet, but when he comes on the field he talking.”
Ricks is listed at No. 1 on the Tigers' depth chart at strong safety during preseason practice. Sophomore Kenji Jackson is listed as the top free safety. William Moore, a 2007 second team All-American at safety and a starter in 2008, has moved on the Atlanta Falcons.
At the beginning of last season, Jackson feared he might get redshirted. He was dealing with hamstring problems and unable to showcase his abilities in practice.
He watched Moore and Justin Garrett, another departed safety from the 2008 team, to learn better technique. Gradually, his hamstring got better and he began to see more playing time. He started four of the last five games of the season.
“It just all worked out in my favor,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he hopes to play more maturely this season.
“You could just tell that on the field he’s more confident in his play,” said senior Del Howard, who is behind Jackson on the depth chart. “He knows what he’s doing and he just goes and attacks the play. Last year, he played sparingly in the beginning of the year, you could see him hesitate a little bit and then try to go. But now he knows what he’s doing and he’s able to run and make the play.”
With Moore gone, Jackson has taken to learning from Ricks by watching him in practice.
“He’s not a silent guy,” Jackson said. “But his actions speak louder than his words.”
After playing safety and linebacker in high school, Ricks played cornerback when he first arrived at MU. He started 12 games at the position in 2006 and 2007. When Pig Brown got injured during the 2007 season, Ricks was moved to safety to help fill the void.
“In the beginning it was a little difficult,” Ricks said. “Just learning the different angles and playing the ball and making run-reads and things like that.”
Now, Ricks said he has adjusted to playing safety at the college level.
“He’s played safety for two years, so it’s not even an issue,” safeties coach Barry Odom said.
The safeties are led by a new coach this season. Odom, a former MU linebacker who was later head coach at Rock Bridge, has moved to safeties coach after working for three years as director of football operations.
“To me, I like him because he’s more laid back,” Simmons said. “I like that. It isn’t always about getting on people. But he a real good coach.”
Odom said Ricks’ and Jackson’s positions as No. 1 on the depth chart do not guarantee they will stay there. There has been some movement in the safety depth chart. Simmons moved to a co-No. 2 position at free safety with Howard. Junior Jarrell Harrison and redshirt freshman Charlie Brockway are in the two positions behind Ricks.
“It’s just like any other position,” Odom said. “You’ve got guys right now that go with the first group, but still, jobs are open. Jobs are open across the board.”