COLUMBIA — The Missouri secondary had a bad day in a scrimmage this spring. The players didn’t communicate well enough and the offense took advantage of it.
“It cost us a touchdown," cornerback Kevin Rutland said.
Naturally, the players heard about it from the coaches. They were told they needed to communicate better.
“From that point on, it’s loud out there between the secondary, we all speak,” Rutland said.
With the team preparing to play Illinois at 2:40 p.m. Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the coaches have made the members of the secondary get even louder in practice, making sure they’ll be able to hear one another in the loud atmosphere of the team’s opener.
“Every time we speak, if they (the coaches) can’t hear us, we have to redo it,” Rutland said. “It’s going to be very loud in the dome, it always has been. So we have to keep communicating in a very loud voice.”
Cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford has told his players they must speak loudly enough so the other cornerback on the other side of the field can hear, even in practice when they don’t need to be as loud as they will in the dome.
“I like it, actually,” cornerback Carl Gettis said. “It’s a lot better just to know everybody is on the same page, we’re not going to have any little mistakes. It’s good that we communicating like that.”
As the players communicate during Saturday’s game, they will be working to stop Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn, who was a Big 10 first-team selection last season. Benn had 1,668 all-purpose yards last season, the third highest total in Illinois history.
“He’s a very talented receiver, he’s been that way for a long time now,” Rutland said. “We have to give him the utmost respect. He’s a key to their offense, and that’s how we look at it from a defensive standpoint. We have to watch out for him.”
In last season’s game against Missouri, Benn had seven catches for 92 yards. During his freshman year in 2007, he had five catches for 74 yards against the Tigers. He has yet to catch a touchdown pass against Missouri.
Rutland said the secondary has faced talented receivers before. The list includes Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, who was second in the nation in touchdown catches last season. It also includes former Texas receiver Quan Cosby, now a Cincinnati Bengal, and Dezmon Briscoe, who had 15 touchdown catches for Kansas last season.
“We’ve seen the best,” Rutland said. “Whether it’s guys from Texas, guys at Oklahoma State, guys even from KU, they all have talented receivers. We’ve been tested for years now, so this is nothing new.”
Gettis and Rutland are the two projected starters at cornerback. Kenji Jackson and Hardy Ricks are projected to start at the safety positions. Of the four, Rutland, a junior, is the only one who has yet to start a game at Missouri.
“He’s a lot more physical now,” Gettis said. “It’s certain little mistakes that he used to make, he cleaned up all his mistakes.”