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Mizzou's Greatest, #14: The 2007 receiving corps

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15. Danario Alexander 2009
16. Mizzou Football 2007
17. Christian Cantwell
18. Chelsea Thomas
19. One State, One Spirit
20. Mizzou-Nebraska 1978
21-22. Doug Smith and Mizzou-Kansas 1990
23. Mizzou Indoor Track 1965
24. Roger Wehrli
25-26. Homecoming 2010 and Gahn McGaffie's kick return
27-28. Willie Smith and Willie vs. Michigan
29. Mizzou Basketball 1922
30. Hi Simmons
31. Norm Stewart (athlete)
32. The Henry Josey Story

The updating is complete. Time to resume our countdown toward #1.

***

As strange as it feels to say, the receiving corps was a bit of an issue for Missouri in 2006, Chase Daniel's first season as Mizzou's starting quarterback. Tight ends Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker were reliable possession guy, catching 69 percent of the passes thrown their way but averaging just 10.4 yards per catch. Will Franklin emerged as an all-or-nothing threat, averaging 17.3 yards per catch with a 58 percent catch rate, but he did most of his damage in a few games (12 catches for 356 yards against Murray State, Ohio, and Texas A&M) and missed the end of the season with injury. Jared Perry was efficient, and Danario Alexander was explosive, but both were true freshmen. There were pieces here, but something was missing.

In 2007, we figured out what that was. Jeremy Maclin, who had missed 2006 with a knee injury, showed up healthy and destroyed Illinois in the 2007 season opener; everything fell into place from there.

The 2007 Missouri receiving corps benefited from having the best quarterback in Missouri history sending passes its way. But it set a standard that not even the 2013 unit could reach.

No. 1 target Jeremy Maclin: 117 targets, 84 catches (72 percent), 1,074 yards (12.8 per catch, 9.2 per target).

No. 2 target Martin Rucker: 109 targets, 84 catches (77 percent), 875 yards (10.4 per catch, 8.0 per target).

No. 3 target Will Franklin: 74 targets, 45 catches (61 percent), 658 yards (14.6 per catch, 8.9 per target).

No. 4 target Tommy Saunders: 62 targets, 45 catches (73 percent), 440 yards (9.8 per catch, 7.1 per target).

No. 5 target Chase Coffman: 55 targets, 42 catches (76 percent), 435 yards (10.4 per catch, 7.9 per target).

No. 6 target Danario Alexander: 42 targets, 31 catches (74 percent), 363 yards (11.7 per catch, 8.6 per target).

No. 7 target Jared Perry: 20 targets, 12 catches (60 percent), 134 yards (11.2 per catch, 6.7 per target).

This unit had a go-to guy in Maclin, three incredible possession guys in Rucker, Saunders, and Coffman, and a big-play guy in Franklin. The 2008 Mackey Award winner was the No. 5 target. The guy who should have won the 2009 Biletnikoff Award was No. 6. Jared Perry caught 37 balls in 2006 and 87 in 2008-09; he was No. 7.

Opponents never knew where the ball was going to go. Rucker caught at least nine passes against Illinois, WMU, and Nebraska. Franklin caught eight for 105 against Ole Miss and caught two bombs against Colorado. Coffman caught 10 for 102 against Oklahoma, then scored three touchdowns against Colorado (thrust nunchuk upward!). Alexander caught a long touchdown pass in the rout of Nebraska, and with Kansas trying hard to account for Maclin and Franklin, he caught eight for 117 in what might have been the most important game in Mizzou history. Saunders also caught eight for 82 yards against Kansas. Perry caught a bomb against CU. (So did I, so did you.)

And in November, with expectations mounting, Maclin just got better and better. He caught six passes for 108 yards against Colorado, then five for 146 against Texas A&M, then nine for 143 against Kansas State. He scored five touchdowns in those games, plus he returned a kickoff for a score against KSU. He also scored four touchdowns on the ground and two on punt returns. He was perhaps the best all-purpose threat in the country, and his emergence gave Mizzou a nearly perfect receiving corps.

Missouri's miracle 2007 season saw incredible play from just about every position on the field at one point or another. But the receiving corps defined the year. Its diversity and depth, its efficiency and explosiveness, both raised Mizzou's ceiling sky high and forever defined how we think of a receiving corps as a whole. Even with the success of 2013, when we think of a No. 1 receiver, we think of Maclin (or a later iteration of Alexander). When we think of tight ends, we think of Rucker and Coffman. When we think of gritty possession guys, we think of Saunders.

This unit gave us Maclin's touchdowns against Illinois, and Franklin's long score against Ole Miss, and Alexander's over-the-middle catch-and-run against Nebraska, and Maclin's jet-sweep scores against Oklahoma, and the overall perfection of the Colorado game, and Maclin's November breakout, and Rucker's fourth-down score against KU, and Alexander's Kansas breakout. It was an incredible collection of talent, a combination of four-stars and former walk-ons, a collection of All-Americans and future award winners. It was one of Mizzou's greatest.