Most important changes of 2004: #7

InsideMizzou continues its countdown of the 10 most important changes from last season to this year. Coming in at No. 7 is newfound depth at the receiver position, including looks at a few new faces that could contribute this season.

At the top, little has changed.

Lacking a shocking turn of events when the post-camp depth chart is released Monday, Missouri's three starting receivers will remain senior Thomson Omboga, junior Sean Coffey and sophomore Brad Ekwerekwu. Those players that trail the top three include two talented freshmen and one sophomore who has come from nowhere and now finds himself on the second-team offense.

On the first day of fall practice, coach Gary Pinkel noted the depth at the receiver position is probably the best it has been in his five seasons in Columbia. That said, talent guarantees little.

"We need playmakers," Pinkel said. "We need consistency in catching and guys that will go out there and make plays. That's our challenge. We probably have more competition on this field right now than we've ever had, but that's the way it should be if you're developing players and recruiting well."

Both aspects--development and recruiting--have yielded results this season. A talented freshman class included William Franklin and Jerrill Humphrey, two extremely athletic talents that opened camp strong.

Humphrey made some of the prettiest catches in the opening week of camp, showing off the speed and hands that made him such a sought-after talent. Despite being matched up with similarly inexperienced quarterbacks like Chase Patton and Darrell Jackson early on, Humphrey made the kind of catches that could earn the tag "playmaker."

After the opening week of camp, Humphrey slowed down a bit. He did little to draw attention in the Tigers' three scrimmages, but still possesses the kind of hands that make him a threat. He spent the final scrimmage operating with the third-team offense, receiving only a few reps. Despite the strong start, it will take a rash of injuries for Humphrey to see much, if any, playing time this season.

Franklin's performance in camp is similar. Pinkel repeatedly praised Franklin's performance during camp, an unusual move by a coach that is tight-lipped and vague when asked to evaluate his players. Franklin's speed and athleticism earned him the nickname "Helicopter" at Vashon High in St. Louis, and the coaching staff seemed to notice that immediately, giving him an opportunity with the punt return team from time to time.

Franklin worked his way from the third- to the second-team offense as camp progressed, earning a handful of throws in the first two scrimmages. He faded a bit as camp went on, but still served as one-third of the strong second unit, which included junior Arnold Britt and, the surprise of camp, sophomore Andrew Hoskins.

Hoskins seemed to burst on the scene with one very, very strong practice. In the afternoon session of two-a-days on Aug. 16, Hoskins caught absolutely everything thrown his way, including several leaping grabs. By the time the next scrimmage rolled around, Hoskins had worked his way onto the second unit. He did not disappoint there, making several nice catches, including holding on for one grab after senior S Ryan Edwards hammered him and another for the only touchdown of the day.

Hoskins and Patton created a strong connection in practice and carried it over to the scrimmages. It would be extremely unlikely for those two to hook up in a game this season, but each has proved he deserves consideration. Hoskins remains on the second-team offense, in anticipation of the first depth chart release Monday. He appears to have passed the freshmen and more established players like juniors Britt and Chris Crosby, but the new depth could change that.

The development of these young receivers may not bear too much fruit this season, but the potential of this group must have the coaching staff, not to mention Missouri fans, excited for the future.

Check back tomorrow as our countdown continues with No. 6.


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