As the Mizzou offense takes the field for the first time in 2009 against Illinois, the Tiger receiving corps may be most notable for what is missing. Gone to the NFL will be Mackey Award winner and All-American Chase Coffman. Gone will be a great leader and steady performer in Tommy Saunders.
If those losses are not enough, another blow could be dealt Friday as Jeremy Maclin announces his intentions for 2009.
However hope is definitely not lost with the talent and height the Tigers bring back on the outside. Mizzou will legitimately be eight receivers deep (counting tight ends) which will enable the receivers to constantly be fresh.
This talent is headlined by the return of six-foot-five senior-to-be Danario Alexander. Before numerous injuries derailed his 2007 season, Alexander had begun to showcase his exceptional speed (4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and leaping ability (46-inch vertical).
Unfortunately, after going through two operations on his knee heading into last season, it was clear he did not fully trust his reconstructed knee and lacked the power and explosion he showed during his freshman and sophomore seasons. When the 2009 season begins, it will have been more than a year since Alexander's last surgery and his return to form will be a major key to the success of the Tiger receivers.
Also returning for Mizzou will be senior Jared Perry. After an exceptional freshman season that saw Perry named to the Big XII All-Freshman team, he has not lived up to expectations in Columbia. Perry will need to be a steady presence alongside Alexander to provide leadership for the talented group of underclassmen who will be vying playing time with the pair of seniors.
Of those young, talented receivers, sophomore-to-be Jerrell Jackson could play the largest role. Jackson saw solid playing time throughout 2008 as Maclin's back-up and could battle redshirt freshman Gahn McGaffie for a starting spot in 2009. Jackson is a very smooth athlete and could be yet another diamond in the rough found by the Missouri coaching staff.
Heading into last season, McGaffie looked as though he would forego his redshirt before a toe injury put those thoughts to rest. McGaffie is a shifty athlete who is explosive with the ball in his hands and could be used in both the passing and running game in 2009.
Also looking to crack the line-up in 2009 will be St. Louis natives Wes Kemp and Rolandis Woodland. Kemp and Woodland both measure in at 6'4" or better and will pose match-up problems for opposing defenses. Kemp seems like the perfect person to eventually step into Saunders vacated position while Woodland has drawn rave reviews for his athletic ability.
Not to be outdone in the height department, sophomore tight ends Andrew Jones (6'5") and Michael Egnew (6'5") should have expanded roles heading into next season. Jones showed great improvement as he filled in for an injured Coffman late in 2008 and will try to carry on the great tight end tradition at Mizzou.
Egnew is a wide receiver/tight end in the Danario Alexander mold. Egnew was not the most accomplished receiver coming out of high school having only recorded 42 catches in a run-oriented offense. Luckily, the Tiger coaches saw his athletic ability on the runway where he placed second in the long jump at the Texas State Championships. With a full year of the spread offense under his belt, Egnew might be a breakout candidate in 2009.
InsideMizzou's Prediction: Last year's freshman class of Jackson, Kemp, McGaffie, Jones and Egnew exceed expectations and all push for significant playing time. Alexander, Perry, Jackson and Jones man the starting spots for the Arch Rivalry game. Jones and Alexander become the top two receivers for the Tigers while Woodland and Kemp make their mark getting snaps behind Alexander and Perry. McGaffie will be utilized in the running game and team with Jackson to attempt to fill the void left by Maclin (assuming he is gone).
Publisher Note: These predictions and opinions are those of the author of the story. We will do an in-depth post spring camp analysis of all the positions at a later date. This is an early look at the possibilities.