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Missouri Football Spring Preview: Aarion Penton is one of the SEC's best cornerbacks

The spring preview series continues with a look at the cornerback position.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerbacks:

Seniors Juniors Sophomores Freshman Class of 2016
Aarion Penton 5'10 185 Logan Cheadle 5'10 180 T.J. Warren (R) 6'0 190 Jerod Alton 5'10 178
John Gibson (R) 6'0 190 Anthony Hines 6'1 190 Finis Stribling (R) 5'11 175 Christian Holmes 6'1 182
Gone: Kenya Dennis
Returning Starters: Aarion Penton (59 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 INT, 8 PD, 1 FF)
Other Returning: John Gibson (12 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD), Logan Cheadle (14 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PD), Anthony Hines (2 tackles), Finis Stribling, TJ Warren
Newcomers: Jerod Alton, Christian Holmes (Early Enrollees: None)

Recap: One of the best corners in the nation last year, Aarion Penton has become a ferocious run-support corner with explosive athleticism that lets him match opposing receivers step for step.

With Jones and Harris gone, Penton starts the year as the No. 3 returnee on that list. "Amp" was versatile enough to play both boundary and nickel corner and provided the coaching staff with the ability to hinder opposing teams' best receivers. He's also connected to one of my favorite memes: Dancing Mizzou Baby. John Gibson proved competent as a nickel corner and rotational sub on the outside. Although he can lose focus at times and is susceptible to getting beat, Gibson is also capable of forcing turnovers -- he has "boom or bust" potential.

Logan Cheadle is another explosive coverage corner who saw extended snaps last year when Penton moved inside. I expect he’ll be coached to follow in Penton’s footsteps. With his size, Anthony Hines’ late addition to the team last fall helped even up the depth chart by pairing up with fellow junior Cheadle and giving the Tigers two corners in every class. The trend continues with TJ Warren and the insanely athletic Finis Stribling who looks like a Penton clone (physically, at least).

Predictions: Penton and Gibson as boundary and field corners, respectively, with Penton tactically moving to nickel corner on third downs and either Hines or Cheadle filling in for him. Stribling and Warren look like the heir apparents to Penton and Gibson and will likely see snaps in relief of the starters. Freshmen Jerod Alton and Christian Holmes will likely redshirt.

What to Watch: Watch for growth and development. Greg Brown comes in with a great reputation for coaching up technique and fundamentals. Brown has a potential draft pick with Aarion Penton and will look to feature him in key matchups. This is a remarkably deep group of athletes on paper with a clear balance positionally and through the classes, can they maintain that with recruiting?

Bill C.: I'm most curious about the battle between Gibson and Cheadle. Cheadle seemed to steal some snaps from Gibson as the season went on, but opponents were often able to take advantage of his size disadvantage. Cheadle is a speedy scrapper, but his technique will have to improve if he wants to minimize those mismatches. Meanwhile, Gibson's got size and experience on Cheadle. Is that enough to fend him off? And does Hines enter the competition now that he's had a few months in the program?