Eight. That's the number of receivers, including tight ends, that are expected to make up the playing rotation for the Missouri Tigers this fall. That's four positions: X, H, Z, and Y/TE. That's two deep at each position. But, I can tell you that when the Missouri staff makes those decisions, they won't place much emphasis on positions. They'll be looking to put their four best receivers on the field, and their eight best receivers will comprise the rotation.
As I look at the Tigers receivers, barring injury, I'm confident that senior T.J. Moe, juniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington, and true freshman Dorial Green-Beckham will be included in the playing rotation come September 1.
Moe is a returning starter in the slot, who last year had 54 receptions for 649 yards and 4 TDs. He's a very reliable receiver, and he is one of the leaders of the team. Moe is virtually a coach on the practice field, and he is extremely helpful to the development of Missouri's other receivers.
Lucas was a part-time starter in 2011 who made 23 receptions for 414 yards and 5 TDs. There was a lot of talk in the spring about how much faster Lucas has become. What I've noticed is that Lucas and QB James Franklin have developed outstanding chemistry between them. I think pretty much everyone around the program expects big things from Lucas this year.
Junior L'Damian Washington 6'4" 188 saw more and more playing time throughout the 2011 season, when he made 20 receptions for 364 yards and 3 TDs. Washington really came on in 2011, and his sub
4.4 speed makes him a serious deep threat.
Look for Moe, Lucas, and Washington to begin fall camp as the starters. Like any other freshman, Green-Beckham will begin fall camp down on the depth chart. But, he won't stay there long. He's just too talented, and possesses just about every attribute that you could want in a receiver. The biggest question in camp regarding Green-Beckham is which of the receiver positions will he play, and just exactly how he will be used in the Missouri offense? I think we may see him line up both on the inside and on the outside, as he's a match-up problem for anyone who tries to defend him. I don't know if DGB will be in the starting lineup on September 1, but I think it's almost a certainty that he will see the field that day, probably early and often.
In 2011, junior TE Eric Waters saw limited action, and had 2 receptions for 46 yards and 1 TD. In the spring, Waters suffered a knee injury that may affect his readiness for the beginning of fall camp. If he's ready to play, I'd expect to see Waters at the top of the Depth Chart to begin fall camp.
Projected Receiver Depth
28 T.J. Moe 6'0" 200 (S)
3 Gahn McGaffie 5'10" 190 (S)
88 Jimmie Hunt 6'0" 215 (So)
9 Kerwin Stricker 6'1" 215 (J)
16 Levi Copelin 6'2" 180 (F)
17 Sheldon Gerau 6'0" 200 (RSF)
2 L'Damian Washington 6'4" 195 (J)
21 Bud Sasser 6'2" 220 (So)
14 Jaleel Clark 6'4" 220 (J)
22 Joe Plevel 6'2" 210 (S)
43 Cameron Chancey 6'0" 180 (RSF)
7 Kortland Webb 5'10" 175 (RSF)
TE / Y WR
81 Eric Waters 6'4" 240 (J)
15 Dorial Green-Beckham 6'6" 220 (F)
80 Sean Culkin 6'5" 230 (F)
82 Brandon Holifield 6'5" 220 (F)
84 Stephen Drain 6'3" 250 (S)
46 Kyle Peasel 6'3" 210 (J)
48 Brandon Colbert 6'3" 225 (So)
If he's healthy, I'd expect Waters to be included in the playing rotation this season.
That leaves three spots in the rotation, according to my assessment, that are up for grabs. Based on what I know today, I'm counting five receiver candidates who will essentially be competing for those three spots this fall.
The first of those is senior Gahn McGaffie. I'm almost ready to pencil McGaffie in, but for the quality of the rest of the competition. McGaffie had a very solid spring, and has developed into a very reliable receiver.
"Gahn McGaffie is a team player," said Coach Pinkel, when asked about McGaffie in the spring. "He's a really good player. He catches the ball consistently. He gets open. He knows the offense. And, he's always got a remarkable attitude."
To give you an idea of how the staff views McGaffie, with Waters on the sideline for the Spring Game, McGaffie was the starter at the Y position.
From all indications, sophomore Jimmie Hunt is the next in line among Missouri's receivers. Hunt appears to me (and apparently to the Missouri staff) to be best suited to play in the slot, although I could see scenarios develop that would have Hunt playing on the outside. Like many of the Missouri Tigers, Hunt is now bigger, stronger, and faster. He appears to be poised to have a break-out type of season.
Senior Rolandis Woodland and sophomore Bud Sasser each concluded spring football working with the second team, and each are likely to open fall camp listed with the second unit. Woodland has seen game action in each of the past three seasons and has 11 career receptions for 139 receiving yards thus far in his Missouri career. He really came on during the spring, and appears to have earned the trust of the Missouri staff playing the X WR position.
Sasser saw very limited game action a season ago, when he made 3 receptions for 16 yards. He's gotten a lot bigger, as well as stronger and faster, and he was listed as a tight end in the spring. There have been times in practice over the past couple of years when I've thought that Sasser looked like one of Missouri's best receivers. But, he's been injured some, and he's also had times when he seemed to disappear on the field. The latter may be due to his being moved around. He's gotten considerable practice time at each of the four receiver positions, and he has shown himself capable at every spot.
Woodland is a senior, and has more game experience, but Sasser has the advantage over Woodland in that he can play multiple receiver positions. This competition is too close to call, and if everyone stays healthy, I think we could see the staff expand the playing rotation to include both players.
Another player who I think could claim a spot in the playing rotation is true freshman TE Sean Culkin. At the very least, I think Culkin will be very competitive during fall camp, and will garner serious consideration for playing time in his first season at Missouri. He has the physical attributes, and he appears to be a very capable receiver. He'll have about three weeks to learn everything, and to show that he's ready.
Missouri returns three receivers who will provide some depth, and who will have the opportunity to climb the Depth Chart during fall camp, including Jaleel Clark, Kerwin Stricker, and Wesley Leftwich. Clark has performed well on special teams, and appears capable of providing some depth at receiver should he be called upon. Stricker and Leftwich are each promising receiver candidates who could insert themselves into the competition for playing time this fall. At times, Stricker has looked good in practice, but staying healthy has been an issue during his time at Missouri.
Red-shirt freshman Wesley Leftwich may be the Tigers' fastest receiver, and he's very good at running under the deep ball. He's had work to do to become a more complete receiver. This fall, we may see Leftwich begin to challenge for playing time.
Junior transfer Darius White 6'3" 205 will be required to sit out the 2012 season. He'll have two years of eligibility remaining when he takes the field in 2013. This fall, White will continue to learn the offense, and take reps with the backups.
I'm looking forward to seeing a pair of very talented true freshmen, in TE Brandon Holifield and WR Levi Copelin. Both of these athletic young receivers appear to have very promising futures at Missouri, and it will be exciting to see them begin to develop this fall.
Overall, I think that Missouri's receiving corps has the chance to be very, very good this year. It's a very talented group of receivers, and there's quality depth beyond the playing rotation.
Receiver Position Outlook: The Tigers return a nice mix of experience and talent to their 2012 receiving corps. Veteran T.J Moe leads the way,but Marcus Lucas and L`Damien Washington got valuable experience and showed big play ability during the 2011 season.
The opportunity is there this pre-season camp for other young receivers such as Jimmie Hunt, Bud Sasser or Wesley Leftwich to step up and add to the mix.
Gahn McGaffie is a solid veteran returning to the squad, as is Ro Woodland.
Of course, all eyes will be on incoming freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, who is expected to contribute right out of the gate this year after his record setting high school career and 31 player in the nation ranking coming out of Hillcrest. DGB will likely be used in a variety of ways and at different receiver spots.
Eric Waters returns as a veteran TE with experience.
Incoming freshman Sean Culkin has created a buzz since arriving on campus and could be a player among the incoming freshmen you hear about during camp who makes a name for himself.