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Player of the Week: Bud Sasser

Going into the season, most Missouri fans worried about who would be catching Maty Mauk's passes. Four games in, it would seem that we have an answer.

Jack Peglow

Last week, I highlighted the beginnings of a breakout season for Michael Scherer. This week, I'll be doing the same, but for someone on the other side of the ball.

(What's with all the potential breakout seasons, anyway? I thought Mizzou was supposed to be awful, especially after last weekend.)

ANYWAY, much like Scherer is racking up tackles on the defensive side of things, Bud Sasser is collecting receiving yardage at a startling rate. Through the first four games of the season, Sasser has tallied 24 catches for 368 yards, which is good for 15.33 yards per catch, and 92 yards per game. Those numbers put him in some solid company within the conference, all of them except for his YPG rank in the top five overall. His total yards also just sneak into the top 20 nationally, coming in at 19th. Needless to say, Bud has been making the most of his newly expanded role in the offense.

Sasser's contributions are more than just numbers, though. His emergence as a consistent, trustworthy target for Maty Mauk has done a lot to fill the 6'6'', 225 lb. hole that the Missouri offense suddenly developed over the summer.

One of the biggest worries for many Tiger fans heading into the season was how Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson would compensate for the loss of Dorial Green-Beckham. Many thought that the dismissal spelled certain doom for Mizzou's passing game, and even though they were being just a bit dramatic, their concerns were very much grounded in reality. Having lost their top three pass-catcher from the previous season, assuming that Mizzou's air attack would see a drop-off would be logical. The thing is: the numbers haven't really regressed. They're just different.

Year Receptions Yards YPC TDs
2014 77 978 12.7 14
2013 97 1,147 11.82 9

Through its first four games, the 2014 offense hasn't caught nearly as many passes as the 2013 offense did, and the yardage total is a hair smaller too. However, the Tigers have been more explosive this year through the air, and they're catching significantly more touchdowns. How is it possible that after L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas, AND DGB all left the program, Mizzou has somehow become more adept at executing big passing plays? Some of it has to do with a changing of the guard at quarterback, but it's also due to Sasser's performance thus far.

Bud accounts for nearly a third of Missouri's passing offense this season, and he's been Mauk's go-to target when the QB is in need of a big play. This fact was put prominently on display against Indiana. After the Hoosiers scored to take a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter, Mauk looked to Sasser to kick the offense into gear. Here's his stat-line from that point in the game on:

Player Targets Receptions Yards YPC
Bud Sasser 9 8 106 13.25

Alternatively, here's how every other Missouri receiver combined fared:

Player Targets Receptions Yards YPC
Sean Culkin 2 2 23 11.5
Darius White 3 1 11 11
Jimmie Hunt 1 1 7 7
Marcus Murphy 3 1 16 16
Total 9 5 57 11.4

With the game on the line, Sasser either matched or outpaced every other target at Mauk's disposal in every category. If there was any doubt about who would step up amongst Mizzou's receivers after losing so many threats, there aren't any more. Air Bud: Offensive Weapon is here, and he's proven that he's ready to rise to the occasion when the Tigers need him to.

With moves like this, I know that I'm ready to place my trust in him.