Missouri sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton grew up in the northern St. Louis suburbs, where protesters and police have clashed for four days after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown.
“On my free time, on my social media, I see a lot to do with Ferguson,” Penton said. “My family lives in Ferguson and Florissant, but I’m just happy that they’re staying in and trying to keep away from it and just doing what they do.”
Penton’s parents, Kim and George, and his younger brother, George III, along with his grandparents, still reside in Ferguson, a northern St. Louis suburb.
“I talk to them every day and make sure they’re OK,” Penton said.
Penton is the heir apparent to Fort Osage graduate and Rams draft pick E.J. Gaines as a Tigers starting cornerback. He’s trying not to let the events back home affect his preparation for the upcoming season.
Still, the situation in Ferguson, which has drawn national and international attention, is hard to ignore.
“The city, by itself, is sad and a little angry at the same time, but, in my eyes, I really don’t know what happened, but the way the city is handling it is real sad,” Penton said.
The Juice Board
One name — E.J. Gaines — dominated the Missouri cornerbacks’ “Juice Board” last season.
As the name implies, the Juice Board measures which player has the most juice, tracking the Tigers’ pass breakups, interceptions, big hits, sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and similar plays throughout camp.
“It’s about who’s out there giving the most effort and producing on the team,” Penton said.
Gaines, of course, is gone — drafted by the Rams after graduating last year — leaving room atop of the 2014 ranking.
So far, Penton has filled the void.
“I’m trying to keep (the top spot),” Penton said. “(Sophomore John) Gibson is right behind me and then right behind him is (junior) David Johnson. We’re all competing every day.”
Of course, there’s also another board measuring the cornerbacks’ play.
“There’s also a bad board as well, so you’ve got to stay ahead on the Juice Board, but you’ve also got to stay behind on the bad board,” junior cornerback David Johnson said.
Ruise tries to shed weight
Senior linebacker Darvin Ruise has appeared in 38 games for Missouri during the last three seasons.
Ruise, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, finished 10th on the Tigers last season with 44 tackles, but he’s been stuck at third on the depth chart at weak-side linebacker since spring football.
“Five pounds, man,” Ruise lamented Thursday after practice.
Missouri’s staff, it seems, wants Ruise — 6 feet 1 and 240 pounds — to shed a few pounds. Until then, third string it is.
He’s exercising and adhering to a training staff-sanctioned eating schedule.
“At the end of the day, you have to do what the program wants,” Ruise said. “No one person is bigger than the program. … I feel like everybody in America is OK with my weight except for them, but that goes back to — it’s not about me, it’s about the team. It’s about coach (Gary) Pinkel, and what he does works. It’s been proven, so it’s up to me to get there.”