2011 Pre-Season Position Preview: Receivers

Today we continue our 2011 pre-season position previews with a look at the playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end spots looking to help take the passing game up a notch

Missouri lists more than fifteen receivers among their four receiver positions, including two, senior TE Michael Egnew  6'6" 240, and junior slot (H) receiver, T.J. Moe  6'0" 200, who are well-established, successful receivers.  Both have been named to their respective 2011 pre-season watch lists, Egnew to the Mackey Award Watch List, and Moe to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.          

TJ Moe

Michael Egnew

Pre-Season Projected Depth Chart Wide Receivers

29 Jerrell Jackson  6'1" 185 (S)
2   L'Damian Washington  6'4" 185 (So)
5   Rolandis Woodland  6'3" 195 (J)
18 Wesley Leftwich  6'2"  195  (F)

28 T.J. Moe  6'0" 200 (J)
3   Gahn McGaffie  5'10" 190 (J)
21 Bud Sasser  6'3" 205 (RSF)
88 Jimmie Hunt  6'1" 195 (RSF)
9   Kerwin Stricker  6'2" 205 (So)

8   Wes Kemp  6'4" 220 (S)
16 Brandon Gerau  6'0" 185 (S)
85 Marcus Lucas  6'5" 205 (So)
14 Jaleel Clark  6'5" 210 (So)

Pre-Season Projected Depth Chart Tight End

82 Michael Egnew  6'6" 240 (S)
81 Eric Waters  6'4"  223  (So)
87 Andrew Jones  6'5" 245 (S)
84 Stephen Drain  6'4"  255 (J)

Jerrell Jackson

Wes Kemp

During 2010, Moe led Missouri, with 92 receptions, for 1045 yards, and 6 TDs.  Egnew was second on the team, with 90 receptions, for 762 yards, and 5 TDs.  Each were recognized for their 2010 play with All-Conference honors.  Egnew received Fist-Team All-Conference recognition, while Moe was named Second-Team All Big 12.

I've seen nothing this year from either of these All-Conference performers to make me think that they won't be at least as good as they were in 2010.

A two-year starter at the Z WR position, senior WR Wes Kemp  6'4" 220, was listed atop the depth chart at the conclusion of spring practice.  In 2010, Kemp had 39 receptions, for 420 yards, and 3 TDs.  Still, it's not a given that Kemp will be the starter in 2011.  His starting status will be challenged in camp, but I expect that Kemp will see quite a bit of action on the field this year.

A returning starter at the X WR position, senior WR Jerrell Jackson  6'1" 185, was also listed atop the depth chart coming out of the spring.  In 2010, Jackson had 50 receptions, for 656 yards, and 3 TDs.  Like Kemp, Jackson's starting job is up for grabs, although we can expect to see plenty of Jackson, as well.

Eric Waters

Among the others who are expected to see plenty of action this season is sophomore TE Eric Waters  6'4"  223, who appears to be following in the footsteps of Missouri's recent succession of TE's.  Waters is very talented, and has continued to develop into the position over the past year-and-a-half.  Expect to see Egnew's back-up catching the football this season.  He's become a more consistent receiver, and is very good after the catch. 

Listed third on the post-spring depth chart, senior TE Andrew Jones 6'5" 245, is expected to see action this year, as well.  Jones is a veteran presence, who gives the Tigers a reliable third TE.
The Tigers' fourth TE is walk-on Stephen Drain  6'4"  255.  Like Jones, the junior brings a little more traditional size to the position, and adds depth behind the more fleet-footed Egnew and Waters.

Bud Sasser

Among the many challengers to start at one of the wide receiver positions are a trio of 2010 signees, in sophomore WR Marcus Lucas  6'5" 205, RSF WR Bud Sasser  6'3" 205, and RSF WR Jimmie Hunt  6'1" 195.  The coaching staff thought enough of Lucas a year ago to pull his red-shirt, and he saw some game action throughout the 2010 season, with 3 receptions for 23 yards.  Lucas shows considerable promise, and also provides the QB with a sizable target, especially in the red zone.

Sasser is another promising receiver, who like Lucas, is good in the red zone, and has shown the ability to make catches in traffic.  I thought that Sasser was the Tigers' second-best WR during the spring, behind only T.J. Moe.  Yet, he enters fall camp listed third on the depth chart at the H WR position, which is puzzling, given that Sasser has performed very well at the Z WR spot during practices, last fall, and again this spring.  I'd like to see Sasser on the outside, where he can challenge Jackson and Kemp, rather than stacked up behind Moe, who is Missouri's best receiver.

Jimmie Hunt

I have similar thoughts regarding Hunt, who appeared to be on his way to playing last year, until he was injured midway through fall camp.  This spring, Hunt showed exciting flashes, but ended up being listed fourth at the H WR spot, again stacked up behind Moe.  I can see Hunt as a better fit at the H WR spot than Sasser, because Hunt does possess tremendous elusiveness after the catch.  But, I'd still like to see him on the outside, where he would have a better chance of getting onto the field.

Before any of that trio of 2010 receivers moves to the top of the depth chart, they'll first have to overtake one of the second-string wide receivers.  That includes sophomore WR L'Damian Washington  6'4" 185, who enters fall camp listed second at the X WR spot.  Washington claimed that spot this spring, with improved consistency, after catching 5 balls, for 35 yards, in 2010. 

Listed second at the H WR spot is junior WR Gahn McGaffie  5'10" 190, who had 6 receptions in 2010, for 40 yards.  McGaffie is a team-first player, who has developed a tremendous work ethic, and has made himself into a very capable receiver.

A former walk-on, senior WR Brandon Gerau  6'0" 185, closed out the spring listed second at the Z WR spot.  Gerau held onto that spot, despite not having had a particularly impressive spring.  Still, Gerau is an experienced receiver, with 7 catches during 2010, for 120 yards.

Another WR with game experience is junior WR Rolandis Woodland 6'3" 195, who made 5 receptions last year, for 97 yards, and enters fall camp listed third at the X WR spot.
Woodland and Washington have battled back and forth for that back-up spot behind Jackson for more than a year.  Now, a fourth player has entered the mix, in freshman WR Wesley Leftwich  6'2"  195, who arrived in January, and participated in spring practice. 

Wesley Leftwich

Leftwich has quickly established himself as one of the best athletes on the team, and probably the fastest player on the team.  He's also already established a reputation among his teammates as a guy with a team-first attitude, and a blue-collar type work ethic.  Then there's his ability to stretch the field.  Late in the spring, I saw Leftwich run down, and catch, a deep pass that everyone on the field knew was overthrown, beyond where anyone had a chance to make a play on the ball.  Everyone, that is, except Leftwich.   Will the freshman arrive ahead of his time, and press the veterans for playing time this year?  That's one of those camp questions that I'll be closely watching.

A pair of sophomores, WR Kerwin Stricker  6'2" 205, and WR Jaleel Clark  6'5" 210, begin fall camp at the bottom of the depth chart.  Each of these still young, and talented, receivers have spent more than their share of time working their way through various injuries during their two years at Missouri.  Stricker has displayed impressive explosiveness, and athleticism, in practice, when he's been healthy.  And Clark, who performed well last year in kick-off coverage, has shown himself to be a capable receiver, as well.

The Tigers have more than adequate depth throughout their receiving corps.  What the team needs is for a couple of the youngsters to step up, and establish themselves as playmakers, especially at the outside receiver spots. 

Pre-Season Analysis: The Tigers certainly have numbers at the position and return two of the more reliable pass receiving targets in the Big 12 conference in Moe and Egnew. Those two offer new QB James Franklin nice options as he grows accustomed to his starting role.

What they lacked last season, and hope to find this pre-season, is at least one game changing playmaker to add to the mix, preferably at one of the outside receiver spots. Whether that means a veteran such as Kemp Or Jackson step up and become that player or one of the underclassmen do, it would make the Tiger offense much more potent by providing an extra threat to keep defenses honest, plus, it would help in the running game and other areas of the passing game that currently are successful.

Improvement in the vertical passing game will looked for and needed from last season to make the offense more dangerous and hopefully give it a big play, quick strike capability that Missouri offense's have had in the past with players such as Maclin, Alexander and Franklin.

Young receivers such a Sasser, Hunt, Lucas and possibly Leftwich could be in the mix to provide that and is something that will be closely watched during pre-season.

Eric Waters made big strides in the spring and looks poised for a possible breakout season backing-up Egnew.

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