Missouri’s pass defense ranked fifth in the country last season, allowing only 169.3 yards per game.
The Tigers were 27th in opponents’ passer rating (114.29), so some of the credit obviously goes to the pass rush, but that still suggests Mizzou had some capable cornerbacks.
Kenya Dennis is gone, but senior Aarion Penton gives the Tigers a potentially elite boundary player.
Penton is a force against the run — finishing fifth on the team last season with 59 tackles, including 41 solo stops with 4 1/2 tackles for a loss.
He only had one interception, but Penton broke up a team-high eight passes, forced a fumble and registered two quarterback hurries.
Upping the number of takeaways will be key for the secondary in 2016 after Missouri recorded only nine interceptions, which ranked 92nd nationally a year ago.
For more on the cornerback situation entering preseason camp, keep reading The Star’s position breakdown:
Returning starters: Aairon Penton, senior.
Other returning contributors: Logan Cheadle, junior; John Gibson, senior; Anthony Hines, junior; Finis Stribling IV, sophomore.
Newcomers: Christian Holmes, freshman; T.J. Warren, redshirt freshman.
Projected 2016 starters: Penton and Warren
Outlook: Perhaps the biggest surprise in spring practice was the emergence of redshirt freshman T.J. Warren, who started the spring game opposite senior Aarion Penton at cornerback. Warren has yet to see the field for Missouri (obviously), but he’s been impressive so far in the run-up to the Sept. 3 opener at West Virginia.
Penton is a lock to start for the Tigers, who have enough depth to feel comfortable entering with the cornerback situation. He’s a perfect fit for new cornerbacks coach Greg Brown’s aggressive mentality. Senior John Gibson wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup last season, but he’s appeared in 38 games during the previous three season with five starts in 2014. He’ll push Warren for the starting job but provides much-needed seasoning even if he’s used in a reserve role again. The same is true for juniors Logan Cheadle, who had two pass breakups and a sack in limited action last season, and to a lesser extent Anthony Hines.