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Nate Brown can be Missouri's go-to receiver, if he's ready

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Brown (6'3, 205, So.)

2014: 7 targets, 5 catches, 45 yards (6.4)

Bill C.: Missouri's had a history of playing true-freshman as little-used understudies, then unleashing them the next season. Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp combined for 10 catches in 2008, then 60 in 2009. T.J. Moe caught two passes in 2009, then 92 in 2010. Marcus Lucas caught three in 2010, then 23 in 2011.

There's been enough depth in the pipeline of late that Mizzou has been able to lean mostly on upperclassmen -- the top three receivers in 2012, seven of eight in 2013, and the top four in 2014 were all either juniors or seniors. But obviously that story has changed this year. Nate Brown heads into 2015 as the leading returning wideout ... with five career catches. That's pretty obscene.

Having a receiving corps with this little experience is never going to be seen as a particularly good thing, but I do think Brown's got all the tools to have a nice year.

In terms of skill set and likely usage, Brown is basically a 50-50 combination of Moe and Lucas. If he can find holes in the zone 6-10 yards downfield like Moe (and if Maty Mauk can hit him like Blaine Gabbert hit Moe), then the efficiency portion of this offense could improve. But it wouldn't be hard to see him used quite a bit as a big target downfield, a la 2011 Lucas.

Brown will be given as much work as he can handle this year. Here's to hoping he can handle a lot.

The Beef: Things are going to need to come together quickly for a number of the Tiger WRs, and Nate Brown is certainly high atop that list. With his height, he provides Mauk that downfield target which we all know he craves. The question here is, can Brown prove to be a good route runner the rest of the time and make the tough catches? Someone is going to need to replace Bud Sasser as the man (never mind the production of he and everyone else who basically caught a ball last season), and Brown seems as good of a candidate as any. Not saying it HAS to be him, but eyes and pressure will be on him to make that statement in the next few weeks. For him (and many others), it is time to put up.

jaeger: Brown is one of two guys who’s going to have to step up this year if the offense is going to have a shot at improvement. He’s got all the athleticism you could want and sure looks the part. He needs to run good enough routes to get himself open for Maty, and he needs to block well downfield. If he does, the offense has a shot at improvement.

Jack Peglow: Brown seems to have cemented himself as Maty’s guy in the slot. At least, that’s what it looks like from the limited amount of structured passing offense Missouri has doled out to us this offseason. He has a bit more meat on him than some of the other applicants for the position, so the move makes sense. We’re working with a laughably small sample size when talking about all of these pass-catchers, but Brown’s experience within the program at least makes me hopeful about his prospects this season. He’s probably the receiver with the best odds to finish the season at or near the top of the total catches list.

Fullback U: Nate Brown is going to be Mizzou's slot receiver and used to cause matchup problems because he's one of the most complete receivers on the roster. He can get in and out of breaks smoothly which accentuates his speed and has demonstrated good hands so far in fall camp. I can envision a lot of slant/post/curl option routes in his future where he reads the defense and just gets open. He's also probably one of the stronger blockers at WR so he'll be able to play more downs and seal the edges. I actually expect Brown to have a big season if only because he'll be able to get open if Mizzou's running offense operates the way it should.