Heading into the spring, ShowMeMizzou.com identified Missouri’s receivers as one of the most talented and stable position groups on the team. During the spring, new receivers’ coach Pat Washington worked with one of Missouri’s most experienced and established position groups. There weren’t really any surprises this spring, but there were a few developments.
A major development was the work of Coach Washington, and the way that he impacted Missouri’s receiving corps. With the application of his extensive knowledge and experience, Coach Washington was able to elicit considerable improvement in Missouri’s receivers.
And, perhaps no receiver improved as much during the spring as did sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham. Of course, Green-Beckham is the most talented of Missouri’s receivers. This spring, the Missouri receivers seemed to make noticeable improvement week by week, in some cases almost day by day. With Green-Beckham, those daily and weekly improvements were simply measured in larger increments. He dramatically improved his practice habits, particularly the speed and precision with which he ran routes, and the level of his focus and concentration. Green-Beckham continued to improve throughout the spring, and by the end of spring practices, the big sophomore had clearly established himself as Missouri’s number one receiver.
Green-Beckham was far and away the Tigers’ leading receiver during their three spring scrimmages, with 18 receptions for 266 yards (14.8 yards/reception) and 2 TDs. Positioned on the outside at the X WR spot, Green-Beckham often presented a physical mismatch for the corners typically assigned to cover him.
“Dorial (Green-Beckham) had a great spring,” exclaimed Coach Pinkel, following the conclusion of Spring Football. “I mean, he’s a different player, now. Just his maturity, naturally. I think you look back at a number of players that we’ve had here in the past, you know, Danario Alexander, that you’re saying, he’s a pretty good player, a pretty good player. Then all of a sudden, he’s a different level guy! And that’s what Dorial is showing right now, that he can be that different level guy right now.”
About midway through the spring, Green-Beckham appeared to move up to the first-team offense at the X WR spot, while senior Marcus Lucas moved inside. That was about the same time that Missouri’s top three TEs were sidelined or slowed with injuries. No matter where he lined up, Lucas was productive, although he did from time to time experience a bad case of the drops. In the three scrimmages, Lucas was Missouri’s second most productive receiver, with 13 catches for 101 yards (7.8 yards/reception) and 1 TD.
Senior L’Damian Washington had a good spring. In the three scrimmages, Washington had 6 receptions for 60 yards. He entered the spring as a starter, and he’ll be a starter heading into fall camp.
In the slot, Bud Sasser held onto the starting job all spring. In the three scrimmages, Sasser had 6 receptions for 45 yards. Early on, it appeared that Jimmie Hunt might emerge from the spring as the starter, but Hunt sprained an ankle and missed the final two scrimmages. In the first scrimmage, Hunt had 1 reception for 28 yards.
That gives Missouri five very high-quality WRs. At this point, those five have separated themselves from the next group. And, to a large extent, with the Tigers playing up-tempo, I can see those five WRs functioning as kind of co-starters. Among those five, Lucas and Sasser can play multiple positions, inside or outside. Washington is another versatile WR, who can play either of the outside spots.
The competition for the sixth WR spot will continue into fall camp. What began as a competition between senior Jaleel Clark and junior Darius White for that sixth spot behind Washington at the Z WR spot has expanded to include RSF slot receiver Levi Copelin. With the injury to Hunt, Copelin took full advantage of his time with the second-team offense, and he definitely continued to raise his profile.
Copelin plays fast and catches the football. In the three scrimmages, he had 8 receptions for 77 yards and 1 TD. As a pass-catcher, Copelin is right there, but he still lacks the size to be ideal as a blocker in the slot, so that may inhibit his inclusion in that first group.
Clark is the veteran possession receiver who rarely makes a mistake, and he held on to his second-team status throughout the spring. The fifth-year senior really did have a terrific spring! He gets open, and he catches the football. In the three scrimmages, Clark had 5 receptions for 98 yards.
White has the talent to move into that top group, and while he has yet to overtake Clark, he did close the gap, showing a lot of improvement this spring under Coach Washington. In the three spring scrimmages, White had 4 receptions for 44 yards.
The next WR in the picture for Missouri is a talented, hard worker who continued to improve throughout this spring, just as he has since his arrival at Missouri. In the three spring scrimmages, sophomore Wesley Leftwich had 3 receptions for 26 yards receiving. Missouri will certainly enter fall camp with a capable trio of third-team WRs.
As previously mentioned, Missouri’s top three TEs missed a lot of time this spring due to injuries. Senior Eric Waters managed to show up for two of the three scrimmages, and he had a pair of receptions for a total of 10 yards, but he was hobbled, and at considerably less than 100%, for much of the spring.
RSF Sean Culkin made it onto the field for all three scrimmages, hauling in 6 catches for 53 yards receiving, despite playing at less than 100% for much of the spring. We did get to see him operate at full health early on, and he showed himself to be a very capable possession-type receiver. He’s very good at getting open, and he makes very good adjustments on the football, in addition to catching nearly everything in his area.
Senior walk-on Kyle Peasel missed nearly all of the spring.
With the injuries at the TE position, especially during the second half of the spring, Missouri was unable to implement everything that they want to do with their TEs. But, it did give the Tigers the opportunity to examine utilizing more four-wide sets, and they clearly have the personnel to be effective with four WRs on the field. But when they’re healthy, I expect to see a TE on the field most of the time.
81 Eric Waters 6’4” 245 (S)
80 Sean Culkin 6’6” 245 (RSF)
46 Kyle Peasel 6'3" 230 (S) (injured)
98 Clayton Echard 6’5” 260 (So)
84 Brandon Colbert 6’3” 225 (J)
89 Tyler Hanneke 6’4” 230 (RSF)
X WR 85 Marcus Lucas 6’5” 220 (S)
15 Dorial Green-Beckham 6’6” 220 (So)
18 Wesley Leftwich 6’1” 195 (So)
26 Jake Brents 6’3” 200 (RSF)
5 James Driscoll 5’10” 165 (So)
21 Bud Sasser 6’2” 210 (J)
88 Jimmie Hunt 6’0” 215 (J) (injured)
16 Levi Copelin 6’2” 185 (RSF)
17 Sheldon Gerau 6’0” 200 (So)
87 Gavin Otte 5’11” 200 (J)
2 L'Damian Washington 6’4” 200 (S)
14 Jaleel Clark 6’4” 220 (S)
8 Darius White 6’3” 200 (J)
43 Cameron Chancey 6’0” 180 (So)
38 Reid Swearingen 6’3” 190 (RSF)