Wesley Leftwich (6'1, 205, Sr.)
2014: 10 targets, 3 catches, 36 yards (3.6)
The Beef: I will be honest … I figured Wesley Leftwich would have transferred by now. When I say that, that is not at all a shot at the young man, his character or his playing ability. That was just me looking at the depth charts over the years and thinking he was just a candidate to do so. That he has not, and that he has a chance to play a key role in the success of his team in his senior year, really is a testament to him.
I will also be honest that I was surprised to see he was targeted 10 times last year with only three catches. I remember the South Carolina catch (as many Mizzou fans will for years to come), but not much beyond that. Needless to say, a catch rate of 30 percent is not likely to keep Leftwich on the field much this season should that stat repeat, but he certainly is in line to end his career after seeing considerable action. For someone who toiled as much as Leftwich did over the years, that itself has to be very rewarding.
jaeger: Leftwich has always been sort of a track star -- lots of speed, never much production. He had the one huge catch last year, but it was one of only three total. He needs to take the big leap forward and at least be a serviceable No. 2 option to Nate Brown.
Jack Peglow: The fact that Leftwich still sits atop the depth chart at one of the two outside receiving positions says a lot about his status as a leader on the offensive side of the ball. The younger names below him all have a higher ceiling, but they bring with them lower floors. At least for the moment, it seems like Gary Pinkel and Josh Henson are content with Wesley’s consistency, and I’m sure the veteran presence he brings to this position group has been a boon.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we see someone like Keyon Dilosa eventually supplant Leftwich as the starter on the outside, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening any time soon. With so much uncertainty in the passing game, it’s nice to have a known quantity out there running routes.
Fullback U: Wesley Leftwich has speed and can get open, it's his hands that trouble me the most. Watching him in fall camp, I'm concerned about his ability to bring in those deep balls that he seems able to get open for. We saw several such instances last year and that makes me uneasy about him starting at the Z-receiver position. Speaking bluntly, I think his seniority and work ethic has more to do with his status than his consistency. We've heard from Pat Washington and other coaches that they expect several true freshman to play this year, so while I think Leftwich holds on to his spot for at least a portion of fall camp, he may relinquish it before it ends.
Bill C.: It's impossible not to jump to conclusions based on small samples when, well, we only have small samples in the receiving corps. We trust Nate Brown because of that one time he looked like a receiver making that one catch. We know what Wes Leftwich is capable of because of the wonderful post route he ran (and caught) on the game-winning drive against South Carolina, but we also worry about his hands because of the wide-open drop that he had against Georgia (that wouldn't have counted anyway because of a holding penalty ... my goodness, that was the most incompetent offensive game we've seen in a long time).
(Something aesthetic that doesn't help him: in our USA TODAY/Getty photo tool, there are two pictures of him in live game action. Both are of a pass falling incomplete next to him. Ouch.)
I think Jack's ceilings-and-floors comment is apt. Upside is easy to see, but Pinkel and his staff are going to play the guys least likely to blow an assignment, miss a block, etc. That almost certainly means Leftwich will be the starter to start the season, and given the opportunity, he might prove that his speed is indeed an asset, and that our concern about hands is a waste of time. Or, he might slowly concede starter reps to a given freshman. It's up to him, I guess.