Second-year stars: Missouri

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
2:30
PM ET
Missouri surprised many outside -- and probably inside -- the Show Me State last year by making it to Atlanta for the SEC championship. A year removed from a dreadful SEC debut, the Tigers showed that they do in fact belong in their new home.

But can Mizzou sustain that success this season? There are a lot of new faces, and the team's most talented player -- wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- was dismissed during the offseason.

Where the Tigers hope to get some help is from their youngsters. Most of the 2013 class redshirted, giving players a chance to sit and learn from a group of veterans who dominated for most of last season.

There are a handful of second-year players who could reach star status for the Tigers, and they better be ready to get their feet wet with roster turnover on both sides of the ball.

[+] EnlargeAarion Penton
Zumapress/Icon SMICB Aarion Penton saw action in all 14 games last season as a true freshman.
Class recap: The Tigers hauled in the nation's No. 38 recruiting class in 2013. Mizzou didn't really need that class to contribute a lot because there was a slew of veterans to keep the Tigers' black-and-gold ship sailing smoothly. There were only two ESPN 300 members in the class in defensive tackle Josh Augusta and athlete Chase Abbington, but only Augusta made it to campus. Abbington headed to junior college and is currently a part of Mizzou's 2015 recruiting class.

Second-year star: CB Aarion Penton (5-foot-10, 185 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Penton flew well below the radar before arriving on Mizzou's campus. He didn't receive a lot of attention from schools and was a three-star prospect out of Saint Louis. Penton ranked 111th at the athlete position, according to ESPN's RecruitingNation.

2013 in review: Unlike many of his classmates, Penton actually got to see the field last year. In fact, Penton played in all 14 games, recording two starts when star cornerback E.J. Gaines went down with a leg injury halfway through the season. In his first start, Penton recorded his first career interception in the first quarter of the Tigers' 36-17 win over Florida. He finished the season with 16 tackles, including 12 solo stops.

2014 potential: Mizzou needs a lot of help in its secondary, especially with Gaines and fellow starting corner Randy Ponder gone. That's where Penton should come in handy. After making a significant impact while Gaines was out last year, the coaches have total trust in Penton's on-field abilities and he was tabbed a starter before spring practice even began. Penton was arrested this spring on marijuana charges, so the coaches will make it a point to make sure his maturity level improves, but from a skills standpoint, Penton is primed for a breakout season. And he'll have to in order to help a secondary that still has a lot of work to do.

Also watch out for: Augusta also played in 14 games last year, collecting nine tackles, including three for loss and two sacks. While the Tigers have a pretty solid defensive line coming back, Augusta could be a real force for Mizzou when he's on the field. He should rotate in more along the defensive line and at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Augusta is Mizzou's biggest interior mover. Redshirt freshman wide receiver J'Mon Moore has all the tools to get a lot of attention in the Tigers' passing game. He has exceptional speed, is lanky, has great hands, and will have more on his plate with Green-Beckham gone. Defensive ends Charles Harris and Marcus Loud both redshirted last year, but have a chance to get good reps this fall with the departures of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Harris is a converted basketball player with a nice, big frame and good athleticism. Loud resembles starter Markus Golden with the kind of brute power he plays with.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.