Freshman Carl Gettis makes big impact for Missouri football

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 | 9:21 p.m. CDT; updated 5:58 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA - Carl Gettis has only been enrolled at MU for two months, but he’s had little trouble with every test he’s taken.

At least on the football field.

“I don’t like micro economics,” he said. “It’s hard.”

Gettis, a true freshman cornerback for the Tigers, hasn’t quite grasped the laws of supply-and-demand yet, but through two games as a starter, he’s had little trouble tackling his opposition.

“He’s doing great,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “(He’s a) young corner out there. You’re talking about a freshman, and he’s playing really, really well. He’s not perfect out there, but we’ve got a heck of a young player. He’s mature beyond his years.”

When cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford traveled to Fort Zumwalt West High to recruit Gettis, it was Gettis’s physical abilities that first caught his eye.

Gettis’s 21 rushing touchdowns and steady play at defensive back proved he could play. But it was his knowledge of the game that convinced Ford he would be able to make the permanent switch to cornerback when he came to Columbia.

But even Ford said he didn’t think Gettis would make this big an impact so soon.

“Initially coming in, no, I don’t think you ever think of a freshman coming in and starting for you,” he said. “But once we got out of two-a-days and early fall camp, we thought this was a young man that might be able to help us in our depth.”

Senior cornerback Darnell Terrell said he knew the team had found a gem the first time Gettis stepped on the practice field during summer workouts.

“We knew he could play,” Terrell said. “The only thing we were thinking in the summer time was, How is he going to adjust to the system we run here?

“He caught on well. He learned the plays fast, and after that happened people pretty much knew he was going to play.”

The question was when. Heading into fall camp, sophomore Hardy Ricks was expected to start opposite of Terrell. But Ricks separated his shoulder during the second week of fall camp, leaving the door open for Gettis.

He shined under the spotlight. The coaching staff was so impressed with the way he kept up with MU’s veteran receivers during practice that they listed him No. 1 on the depth chart the week before the season opener against Illinois. Ricks was cleared to play a few days before the game, though, and Gettis went back down the depth chart.

But talent can only be denied for so long, and with Ricks struggling through the first four games, the coaching staff decided to start Gettis in the team’s fifth game.

But Gettis’s first collegiate start wasn’t coming against just any team. It was coming against Nebraska. On national television.

So much for easing the freshman in. But if going up against MU’s starting offense didn’t faze him, why should this?

“Coming in my first start against Nebraska, I couldn’t think of a better way to start off my career as a starter,” Gettis said.

He held his own in the Tigers’ 41-6 stomping of the Huskers, recording three tackles and preventing Nebraska’s receivers from making big plays.

He did equally well in his second start of his career last weekend against the high-powered Oklahoma Sooners, tallying three more tackles, including one for a four-yard loss.

“There’s kids that have a lot of heart, a lot of moxie, and he has those things,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “He has a lot of confidence in what he believes he can do, and he’s a player that likes to compete.”

Gettis passed his first two tests, but this weekend’s game against Texas Tech will likely be the final exam that evaluates just how far he’s come since the beginning of the semester.

The Red Raiders’ offense leads the nation with 582 yards a game and poses one of the most dynamic quarterback-receiver duos in the country.

Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell already has 31 touchdown passes in just seven games, and freshman wideout Michael Crabtree leads the country in just about every major receiving category, including receiving yards (1,244), receptions (78) and touchdowns (17).

Tall order for a true freshman. But this true freshman isn’t shaking.

“I’m not intimidated, but I respect him (Crabtree) because I know he’s a good player,” Gettis said. “I’m just going to come out and try to do what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. Just continue to do my job as a player on this team.”

That’s all the coaching staff expects him to do.

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