Missouri started spring practice over two weeks ago, and things are well underway around the SEC. Thirteen of 14 teams have started spring practice, with Kentucky bringing up the rear and starting today.
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Missouri turns from being the hunter to the hunted, and now, they have a target on their backs after an electrifying turnaround that took a backseat to only Auburn.
Here are five players who will help them defend their championship in 2014:
Shane Ray, DE (rJR)
2013 stats: 39 tackles, 9 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 11 QB hurries, 2 FF
Buzz: With Kony Ealy and Michael Sam gone, Shane Ray and Markus Golden jump into the spotlight. We know more about Golden, and he’ll be a major contributor in 2014. And so will Ray. Ray played really well last year, and he was very much a part of the defensive line rotation that featured some very talented players. I do worry about defensive end depth slightly, but I also know Ray and Golden are going to play major roles.
Aarion Penton, CB (SO)
2013 stats: 16 tackles, 1 INT
Buzz: With corner duo EJ Gaines and Randy Ponder exiting the program, the next talent in line to fill one of the spots is Aarion Penton. He’s talented, and he’s in the mold of an EJ Gaines-like corner. Just a rising sophomore, Penton will play a major veteran role for an inexperienced secondary in 2014.
Charles Harris, DL (rFR)
2013 stats: Redshirted
Buzz: You don’t know about Charles Harris yet, but he’s one of those two-star nobodies that will turn into a top round NFL pick. I can see it coming, and you better buy stock now before it gets too high. I have a source with the Mizzou team who says he’s been around Osi Umenyiora, and Charles is in that same mold – talented and elite. He’s a prototypical NFL defensive end who can also play tackle. He can help depth at both positions.
Maty Mauk, QB (rSO)
2013 stats: 68 of 133, 1,071 yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs
Buzz: This was the obvious pick of the entire five, and Mauk will play a crucial role for Mizzou this season. While filling in for James Franklin, he showed leadership and poise and splashed a high ceiling. Although improvements have to be made this spring, Mauk is going to be the real deal and could help take the offense to another level.
Kentrell Brothers, LB (rJR)
2013 stats: 70 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 INTs
Buzz: Brothers is the complete package at linebacker. He’s strong against the run, and he plays well in coverage, recording three picks last season. With Andrew Wilson gone, Brothers will also play a huge part in the leadership of an overall younger defense that lost some key parts from last year.
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