Earlier this week, Missouri assistant coach Pat Washington spoke with ShowMeMizzou.com about possibly getting one or both of his starters back this week for the Georgia game, and he also talked about what he’d seen from the back-ups.
“This week is a big game,” said Coach Washington, speaking of the hope that Missouri will have Jimmie Hunt and Darius White back on the field against Georgia. “You want your big dogs out there when you’re playing a big game.”
Then, Coach Washington talked about some positives that he saw from a couple of his younger receivers during and following the comeback win at South Carolina.
With Hunt and White out with injuries at South Carolina, true freshman Lawrence Lee saw quite a bit of action, and he came up with a big catch along the sideline. And, junior wide receiver Wesley Leftwich came up with the biggest catch of his career, as he made a clutch reception on a post route to give the Tigers a first and goal at the South Carolina 1-yard line.
“Awesome! To come out of that game with a win, and those guys getting the reps that they got, their confidence level is just going up,” said Coach Washington, talking about the positive impact on their development of the contribution made at South Carolina by Leftwich and Lee. “To be able to see themselves on film, and see the things that we talk about, what they are doing, or are not doing. At practice the other day, I saw those guys trying to do those things better. You know, sometimes you think you’re doing something, and then it’s on film. And, you realize, wait a minute, I’m not doing what I thought I was doing.”
Leftwich has been practicing better and better. Making that big play in the South Carolina game could very well catapult Leftwich forward in his development and performance.
Leftwich has immersed himself in team goals, and has been able to stay healthy for the most extended period of time since he’s arrived at Missouri. This year in practice, he’s taken it to another level. Now, he has the confidence to take it to the field during the games. He’s knows he’s going to get it done. And, Coach Washington has confidence in him, as well, so he’s going to get increased opportunities. And, perhaps most importantly, his quarterback has confidence in him, so he's going to have opportunities to catch the football and make plays.
“He was in a situation where he had a chance to catch a ball and make something happen for us,” explained Coach Washington, talking about how Leftwich earned that trust. “And he used his hands and caught the ball. Really, he almost scored.”
From the time Lawrence Lee arrived this summer, he’s been on the fast track. He experienced a setback last month, when he was limited due to an injury, but he's back healthy now, and he’s leaped ahead in his development. The successful game experience that Lee gained at South Carolina will pay dividends the rest of the season.
“Lawrence Lee is doing well,” said Coach Washington. “He’s getting better.”
Coach Washington went on to explain that Lee benefitted tremendously from being able to see himself and critique himself on game film. It’s paying off in practice.
Coach Washington is expecting a late-season surge in performance from Lee.
“He’s very close (to a surge in performance),” said Coach Washington, speaking of Lee. “He’s very close. He’s performing well in practice.”
Through the first half of the season, the Tigers have been searching for depth at the receiver positions. It looks like it may have arrived in the persons of Leftwich and Lee.