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March 12, 2013

Spring Preview: Defensive backs

Spring practice starts today for the Missouri football team, and in the week leading up to its start, PowerMizzou.com will break down the story lines at each position.

Today, we finish with the defensive backs.

INCUMBENTS: SR CB E.J. Gaines; RS SR CB Randy Ponder; RS SR S Matt White; RS JR S Braylon Webb

CHALLENGERS: RS JR CB Xavier Smith; RS SO CB David Johnson; RS FR CB John Gibson; RS SO S Ian Simon; RS SO S Ernest Payton; RS SO S Cortland Browning; RS JR S Daniel Easterly; RS FR S Chaston Ward

STORY LINES: Missouri's secondary doesn't enter this spring as embattled as it was the last few years in the Big 12, but a thud ending on defense in the 2012 season still presents questions for this group.

Cornerback seems set, with Gaines leading the group in his final season before what could be a high selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ponder had his ups and downs in 2012, but none of the other challengers managed to jump him in the depth chart a year ago, and that may be hard to change. However, John Gibson showed plenty of promise last August, and with a year of experience, he could be the most likely underclassmen to challenge for a starting job this spring.

At safety, Webb is entrenched at one spot, but the other may be up for grabs. Matt White has a lot of experience, but Ian Simon started seeing more time at the end of 2012 and may have the track to the starting job. Payton recently moved from corner to safety, but he -- along with Easterly and Browning -- haven't really made any moves up the depth chart in their time at Missouri.

PREDICTION: Gaines and Ponder keep their starting job at safety, with John Gibson rotating in. Webb pairs alongside Simon to end the spring starting at safety. However, that group won't be settled until Duron Singleton arrives this summer.

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