Even though Missouri just graduated two very productive safeties, the Tigers enter the spring with their most-talented secondary of the Gary Pinkel era.
Missouri enters the spring with the cornerback position intact, returning three of the top corners of Coach Pinkel’s tenure. In addition, the Tigers bring back a trio of very talented young corners who will be competing this spring for a spot on the two-deep Depth Chart, and the opportunity to play in the Missouri secondary this fall.
At the top of the Depth Chart at corner are senior Kenya Dennis and junior Aarion Penton, two of the better corners Coach Pinkel’s been able to put on the field at Mizzou. Junior John Gibson played extensively at corner last season, including some starts, and he earned his status alongside of Dennis and Penton.
Senior corner David Johnson played some at the position in 2014. He’s capable, but not on the same level as that top trio. He’ll be challenged by some very, very talented youngsters, including sophomore Logan Cheadle, who played sparingly at corner as a true freshmen, but who saw considerable action on special teams in 2014.
Then there’s a pair of ultra-athletic red-shirt freshmen, in Ray Wingo and Finis Stribling, each of whom have excellent speed and size potential for the position.
So even though it would appear that the Tigers are pretty well set with their top trio returning at the corner, Spring Football will provide for some exciting competition among a trio of equally talented youngsters trying to establish themselves and break into the rotation.
The competition at the safety position is pretty much wide open this spring. To begin Spring Football, I expect that a pair of fifth-year seniors will top the depth chart for the Tigers at the safety position, including Cortland Browning and returning starter Ian Simon.
Browning and Simon are very talented, and are also experienced, Simon certainly more so than Browning, who played behind Braylon Webb a year ago.
But the real talent at the safety position is to be found in a trio of sophomores and a red-shirt freshman, all four of whom will be competing this spring to move up and challenge for a starting job.
Sophomore Thomas Wilson played increasingly as a true freshman, as a nickel back and on special teams. By late in the season, I thought Wilson was playing that nickel back position as well or better than anyone the Tigers have had there. He is smart, fast and physical. He covers like a corner, and he tackles very well in open space.
Sophomore Anthony Sherrils is the converted corner who posted the team’s fastest 40 time (4.31) last spring. He played mostly on special teams a year ago, where he showed his speed and range. He’s a superior talent who simply needs to translate his speed and athleticism to the safety position.
Wilson and Sherrils are strong candidates to win a starting job for this season.
Another super-talented player is red-shirt freshman Tavon Ross. He wasn’t cleared to practice until it was too late for him to have a chance to play last fall. But he’s ready to make up for lost time this spring. Sherrils, Wilson, and Ross form a trio of talented safeties the likes of which Missouri has not fielded under Coach Pinkel. They may be the three most-talented safeties to have played at Missouri under Coach Pinkel.
And that’s not all. Sophomore Shaun Rupert is another tough, smart, physical, talented safety who will also challenge for playing time, and possibly even a starting job. He’s another one who saw considerable action on special teams last year. And during bowl practices, he was getting a lot of second-team reps along with Sherrils and Wilson.
So at safety, the Tigers have a pair of experienced veterans as well as some extremely talented, less-experienced, younger players. It should make for a very interesting competition.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart may look like in the Missouri secondary to begin Spring Football:
CB 7 Kenya Dennis 6’0” 200 (S) 3 David Johnson 5’11” 190 (S) 28 Logan Cheadle 5’10” 175 (So) 31 Finis Stribling 5’11” 180 (RSF) 12 Dominic Nelson 6’0” 182 (So)
CB 11 Aarion Penton 5’10” 185 (J) 1 John Gibson 6’0” 185 (J) 29 DeAndre McKenzie 6’1” 185 (S) 14 Ray Wingo 6’0” 175 (RSF) 46 Trei Walton 6'0" 190 (S)
SS 5 Cortland Browning 6’1” 205 (S) 22 Anthony Sherrils 6’0” 195 (So) 6 Tavon Ross 6’0” 200 (RSF) Leo Luna 5’9” 200 (J)
FS 21 Ian Simon 6’0” 195 (S) 8 Thomas Wilson 5’11” 185 (So) 19 Shaun Rupert 6’1” 185 (So) 13 Chaston Ward 6’1” 205 (J)