Though the Missouri Tigers lost eight of their 11 offensive starters from 2013, most of their spots are scheduled to be filled by experienced players who should provide little to no drop-off in performance from their predecessors. This won’t be the case at the wide receiver positions, however, as the Tigers will have to string together a group of rather inexperienced wideouts to fill three vacant positions.
With all due respect to graduated senior receivers L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, who both agreed to undrafted free agent deals with NFL teams, the Tigers’ biggest loss at wideout will be that of Dorial Green-Beckham, a rising junior who was dismissed from the program in April following a domestic violence incident. “DGB”, a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder who was one of the nation’s top recruits in 2012, was Mizzou’s leader in receptions, receiving yardage, and receiving touchdowns in 2013, catching 59 balls for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Though he was a huge contributor in all facets of the passing game, Green-Beckham will be missed the most for his ability to grab balls over the middle and act as an endzone target.
At the last update of the depth chart, Mizzou listed redshirt seniors Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, and Darius White as the starting wideouts. Sasser is the most experienced of the three, having acted as a part-time starter in 2013 while catching 26 balls for 361 yards and a touchdown. Through his Mizzou career, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Sasser has 39 receptions for 608 yards. With the significant decrease in size among the Tiger receivers from 2013 to 2014, Sasser likely will spend most of his time as an outside receiver this year after playing primarily from the slot last year.
The 6-foot-tall, 215-pound Hunt will be one of Mizzou’s primary slot receivers in 2014. The Cahokia, Illinois native who has accumulated 34 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns during his Mizzou career will look to put on a great performance in 2014. Though he’s been blocked in the past by more experienced Tiger receivers, Hunt has shown plenty of potential whenever he’s been given chances to play, and it should be exciting to see what he can do with an increased role this year.
White, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound former Texas Longhorn, will look to make an impression during his first season of significant action. White did not get much meaningful playing time last year, catching seven balls for 76 yards and a touchdown. He’ll likely line up opposite Sasser as one of Mizzou’s outside wideouts this year.
If he can stay out of trouble, another intriguing receiver to watch could be Levi Copelin, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound redshirt sophomore who tallied three receptions for 61 yards in 2013. Copelin has been arrested twice during his two years in the Missouri program, though, so he needs to turn things around to avoid going down the same path as Green-Beckham, his fellow 2012 recruit.
The other backup wideouts listed on the Tigers’ spring depth chart include senior Gavin Otte, juniors Wesley Leftwich and Cameron Chancey, sophomores Eric Laurent, James Driskell, and Jake Brents, and second-year freshmen Aaron Bailey, Niclaus Rhone, J’Mon Moore, and James Taylor. Among those players, one to keep an eye on this year might be the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Otte. The walk-on put together a great spring performance, finishing the team’s first spring scrimmage with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Gary Pinkel compared him to Tommy Saunders, another former walk-on and a star on Mizzou’s highly successful 2007 and 2008 squads, saying “he’d go out and catch everything. Those guys are worth a million dollars.”
Mizzou is also expected to add 2014 recruits DeSean Blair, Nate Brown, Keyon Dilosa, Darnell Green, Lawrence Lee, and Thomas Richard for the fall semester. Interestingly, all of them except Green (Green-Beckham’s younger brother) and Dilosa hail from the heart of SEC country, a sign of Mizzou’s changing recruiting plan. It’s difficult to tell if any of them will play as true freshmen, but with the Tigers’ lack of receiving depth it’s certainly a great opportunity for all of them to try to prove themselves immediately. Though they’re unlikely to be contributors in 2014, two interesting players to watch moving forward will be Green, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound leukemia survivor who has great potential and could fill out with work in the weight room over time, and Brown, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who put in great work on and off the field in high school, being named an All-State receiver in Georgia as a senior and rejecting an offer from Yale to join the Tigers following the season.