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Predicting Missouri's defensive depth chart: The battle at cornerback just got more interesting

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Bill: So now that we've learned that Missouri's offense is definitely going to be as good as it was in 2013...

...let's talk defense!

We'll start at the back since that's where the intrigue is (in my opinion). Yes, Aarion Penton will probably be a strong No. 1 corner, and yes, Anthony Sherrils will be solid once again at safety. But the other two spots in the back appeared up for grabs at the start of the spring, especially when Cam Hilton indeed moved back to defense.

That Thomas Wilson started opposite Sherrils (and appeared to play well) didn't surprise me at all. That redshirt freshman T.J. Warren started opposite Penton did. Pre-spring, we were talking about this race like it was John Gibson vs. Logan Cheadle. I wasn't even sure if Warren would stick at corner or safety when all was said and done.

There's nothing saying Warren remains the No. 1 CB, though with Gibson getting roasted horribly by J'Mon Moore in the second quarter, I would say the spring game probably didn't change any of what the coaches were thinking.

We'll see if he can hold onto the spot in August, but this is the kind of development I love seeing. Even with his inconsistency, we know that Missouri can field a really strong defense with Gibson on the field -- we've seen it happen. So if the coaches end up thinking Warren is a stronger option, that can only mean good things. And if this is just a way of sending a message or starting an even stronger competition in the fall, all the better.

If Warren sticks, though, I guess we're looking at something like this in the secondary:

CB: Aarion Penton, Logan Cheadle

FS: Thomas Wilson, Cam Hilton

SS: Anthony Sherrils, ? (I couldn't really get a sense for who was second-teaming it from the stands, and I haven't watched much of the replay with actual sound yet.)

CB: T.J. Warren, John Gibson

Thoughts?

Jack: More so than any other on the team, this position group's two-deep feels a bit meaningless. Penton and Sherrils will see a lion's share of the snaps, but the rotation behind them will be exactly that: a rotation. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Cheadle, Wilson, Hilton, Warren, Gibson, et al. get roughly the same amount of playing time. But we're here to argue the two-deep, so argue I shall.

It looks like the FS spot is Thomas Wilson's to lose, and I don't envision him losing it. Cam Hilton is relearning how to play defense, so it's possible that he usurps Wilson eventually, but probably not until later in the season. Again, that will almost certainly be a position with a healthy rotation.

I do disagree with you on Warren, though. Odom told us not to put a lot of stock into the spring game starting lineups and snap counts; specifically in regard to T.J., if I recall correctly. Not that he's a bad player, I just think Odom will cede the starting spot to a player with more experience. Gibson may still be setting off fire alarms in the MATC after that toasting Moore gave him, but that's all the more motivation to improve.

Once again, the secondary looks like it will be the defense's weak link. A group that consists of some nice experience and a whole heck of a lot of athletic talent will be the chink in the armor. I think I can live with that.

Bill: At worst, it's extra competition for the spot that we didn't know existed two months ago.

Linebackers!

I ... have almost nothing to say here. Michael Scherer: real good. Donavin Newsom: good. Joey Burkett, Terez Hall, and Brandon Lee: probably going to be good.

Since this whole "depth chart" thing was my idea, I feel compelled to guess the depth chart, but my goodness, do I have few worries here.

SLB: Donavin Newsom, Terez Hall

MLB: Mike Scherer, Cale Garrett

WLB: Joey Burkett, Brandon Lee

Garrett seemed to creep further up the depth chart than I expected in spring ball, and he might stick here. If not, maybe Eric Beisel, Trey Baldwin, Grant Jones, or Roderick Winters.

It almost doesn't matter*. They're all either good or about to be.

* Okay, fine, it matters. Losing, say, Scherer to injury for a bit would hurt. But this unit is incredibly deep with guys I'm excited about.

Jack: Yeah, from this point on we could probably just write, "They're going to be real good" and it would suffice.

Digging deeper though, there are some things to keep an eye on. Rumor had it that Terez Hall temporarily supplanted Newsom as a starter at some point during spring ball. That obviously didn't last long enough to manifest itself in the spring game, but he's apparently playing at the level of a starter. Does that mean we see an eventual move to WLB for Hall? It's possible. It might be probable. Scherer looks poised to take over the tackle magnet role that Kentrell Brothers held down last year, so the other linebackers will need to go elsewhere for their stats. I think that bodes well for Hall, whose athleticism could make him a threat as both a pass-rusher and a pass-defender.

There's also a litany of talent further down the depth chart. We haven't even talked about Franklin Agbasimere yet! His nickname is Smash, for gosh sakes. Smash! He might still be learning how to football, but I'm all in on him.

I'm also all in on the continued dominance of the wide-bodies, who I'm sure you're similarly excited about.

Bill: Yep. Charles Harris didn't play on Saturday. Terry Beckner Jr. didn't play. Nate Howard didn't play. Harold Brantley obviously didn't play. Walter Brady barely played. And yet, the two guys I was most impressed with on defense were linemen. I loved Rickey Hatley's work early, and I love watching Marcell Frazier pursue. Like Oscar suggested on Wednesday, we should probably view anything we get from Brantley as a bonus. It would be wonderful to see him back on the field, but Mizzou's loaded up front regardless.

I don't even want to "predict" a depth chart because Mizzou could basically end up with three starting ends and three starting tackles. No complaints.

Okay, fine, this was my exercise, blah blah blah.

DE: Charles Harris, Nate Howard (though Spencer Williams was solid this spring)

DT: Terry Beckner Jr., Rickey Hatley

DT: Josh Augusta, A.J. Logan

DE: Walter Brady, Marcell Frazier

Goodness, that's awesome. And barring a breakout season from someone like Brady or Frazier (which is conceivable), Mizzou's only scheduled to lose Augusta, Hatley, and of course Harris. We can wring our hands all we want about the offense, but this front seven ... man.

Jack: I want to get an apartment with this front seven. Is it crazy of me to think that this may end up being the best unit - top to bottom - that Mizzou has fielded in recent history? There have been some outstanding edge-rushers to come through Columbia, but this season has that PLUS an interior stouter than a strong Guinness.

You're starting four is spot-on, and - Like the rest of the position groups - the line should have a healthy rotation that nets a mostly equal amount of snaps for the rest of the depth chart behind them.

These guys are going to be real damn good. There's not a whole lot else to say. We should all give thanks.