Missouri senior cornerback Aarion Penton’s Twitter bio says he’s “a laid back chill type of guy,” but that’s probably not the assessment any West Virginia wide receiver would have offered after Saturday’s season opener in Morgantown, W.Va.
Beginning with the opening quarter, Penton, a 5-foot-10 St. Louis native, swarmed taller Mountaineers’ wide receivers, like 6-foot junior Shelton Gibson.
What made him so successful?
“His demeanor,” Tigers defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross said Tuesday after practice. “He plays big and he has a presence about him, but I think it starts with his off-season training that allows him to compete at that nature.”
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Last season, Penton was named the team’s most-improved cornerback and its top corner, a title he intends to keep.
During training camp, Penton said he hoped to snag at least four interceptions this season, a goal he got a jump on during the third quarter at West Virginia with an acrobatic interception on a deep lob down the home sideline.
Mizzou coach Barry Odom said Monday that Penton has earned the right to play the majority of snaps and that “he held up pretty well” despite frequently being left on an island in single coverage.
Penton had six tackles against the Mountaineers, the fourth-most among Tigers defenders.
His competitiveness is what continually impresses Missouri cornerbacks coach Greg Brown, who Tuesday lauded Penton’s importance to the defense and his leadership.
“He’s tough … and competed snap-in and snap-out and helped us a great deal,” Brown said.
Cross agreed, saying that Penton’s performance in week one “set the bar.”
“Aarion played well, and it’s just the start,” Cross said. “It’s a long season, but he went up against some really good receivers and held his own against top-caliber guys. That’s what we expect from this point forward.”
Dilosa trending up
Ten different Tigers caught a pass Saturday, but only one moved up on Missouri’s official two-deep depth chart.
Sophomore wide receiver Keyon Dilosa didn’t appear on the two-deep before the West Virginia game.
This week, Dilosa — a 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Round Rock, Texas — has been moved to the No. 2 spot on the outside behind Mizzou’s leading pass-catcher, J’Mon Moore.
Throughout camp, Tigers wide receivers coach Andy Hill put emphasis on effort in setting the depth chart.
“(Dilosa) came in there and had limited reps, but he played hard, he blocked well and we’re looking for guys that are into it (and) engaged,” Hill said. “I think he did a real nice job of that.”
More wide-receiver chatter
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson only had one catch for 6 yards, but he was still among the players wide receivers coach Andy Hill singled out when asked who impressed him at West Virginia.
“JJ Johnson did a good job,” Hill said. “He didn’t have many opportunities, but he played well.”
Johnson, who was only targeted three times, also had a 2-yard punt return in his first game with the Tigers. He played roughly one-third of the offense’s 100 snaps, splitting time with senior Chris Black, a graduate-student transfer from Alabama, and sophomore Ray Wingo.
Black finished with six catches for 102 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, while Wingo had a 1-yard catch.
Hill said Black needs to play faster, but that he also impressed along with junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore, who led Mizzou with an FBS-high 23 targets and grabbed eight receptions for 104 yards.
Practice will determine how the Tigers split reps for Saturday’s home-opener against Eastern Michigan.
“It’s all about effort,” Hill said of the wide-receiver rotation. “You’ve got to earn it every day. We’ll see where we are. … We’ve got to make sure that we’re playing fast and taking advantage of opportunities.”
Baldwin to redshirt
Mizzou freshman Trey Baldwin suffered two concussions in fall camp and will redshirt this season.
The 6-foot-2 linebacker from Houston helped lead West Orange Stark High to a Texas state championship as a junior then transferred to Cypress Falls High.
He was an early enrollee for the spring semester in January.
The Star’s Tod Palmer contributed to this report.
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis