The Missouri Tigers took a major hit in the secondary with the loss of safety Kenji Jackson and cornerback Trey Hobson.
But they still have E.J. Gaines, and that should be enough to ensure a decent secondary in 2012.
Gaines is ready to have a breakout season and should make a name for himself in the SEC.
Let’s take a look at five things you should know about Missouri’s excellent cornerback.
Gaines will take over in the punt-return game in 2012.
He’s pretty inexperienced at that spot, so his coaches will need to keep an eye on him.
But, he has all the skills necessary to make the Tigers a threat in the return game, something they haven’t been since Jeremy Maclin (pictured here).
Gaines is 5’10” tall, which is respectable for a cornerback, but he weighs only 190 pounds.
He’ll have some trouble with bigger, more physical SEC receivers, but he should hold his own against the rest.
He’s still young, though, so he should have time to bulk up a bit.
Now that Kenji Jackson and Jacquies Smith are gone, Gaines is going to have to step up and be a leader for the defense.
He’ll have Will Ebner (pictured here) and Andrew Wilson to help him, but he’ll be the main man in the secondary.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Gaines should be up to the task.
Gaines had to struggle his way through games against Brandon Weeden (pictured here), Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones and other star quarterbacks while in the Big 12.
This season, he’ll face a conference with lesser quarterback play, making things easier for him.
The best part is that he won’t even have to face the SEC’s best quarterback, Tyler Wilson, this season.
Look for Gaines to improve in every aspect of his game in 2012.
Gaines was a third-team All-SEC preseason award winner, but he should have been on the second team at least.
With players like Dre Kirkpatrick and Morris Claiborne off to the NFL, Gaines deserved a second-team award.
He’ll have to prove himself in his new conference, but he should find his way to the second team by the end of the season.