On Monday, I wrote that the injury bug has hit Missouri slightly, but it hasn’t been dealt any serious injuries. Wednesday brought something different: Wide receiver Nate Brown, the Tigers leading touchdown receiver in 2015, will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
"The promising side of that is we’ll get him back," Barry Odom said. "Knowing Nate, his work ethic, and the way that he and (trainer) Rex (Sharp) will work together, I anticipate him coming back and helping up this year."
The injury is tough for Brown, but in all honesty, this is something that the Tigers can overcome given the number of bodies it has at receiver. Brown wasn’t a name that came up all that much during interviews. That’s not to say he wasn’t going to start or wasn’t progressing, but it shows that Missouri is a little bit deeper than most think at the position --- at least, the Tigers think so.
"Nate was doing a good job until he got his ankle kind of messed up a little bit," receivers coach Andy Hill said. "We have a lot of good players, we’re pretty deep."
With Brown out, Missouri needs someone else to step up and take their game to the next level in 2016. Freshman Dimetrios Mason is someone everyone has been raving about. Emanuel Hall certainly looks the part to be a No. 1 receiver. Keyon Dilosa could be a receiver to make tough catches over the middle of the field. Justin Smith’s size creates endless mismatch possibilities. How about Eric Laurent? JUCO transfer Dominic Collins? DeSean Blair? Chris Black has experience, but can he stay healthy all the way through the season?
"We got some talent in there, we got some good competition," J’Mon Moore said. "Out of that whole group, everybody that gets on the field makes plays, like you’d all think they were starters."
Fans have been focused on all the new bodies and potential at the position, but they could be forgetting about Moore, the overall leading returner at receiver. Moore always had the physical tools to be a playmaker at receiver, but hasn’t put it together yet. That could be changing, as he’s been more dialed in.
"I think my catching went from OK to supreme," Moore said. "Last year I didn’t look the ball in. I was just thinking I was like too cool, just felt like I was natural. This year I’ve been really focusing on looking the ball in before I make a move."
His coaches and his quarterback have taken notice.
"I believe that J’Mon has improved as much as anybody on the team," Odom said. "Overall, if you look at the things we ask those guys to do, he’s gotten better from January until today."
Dropped passes plagued an offense that already struggled mightily last fall. Drew Lock is still a young quarterback, and he’ll make mistakes. But if he has a go-to receiver with reliable hands with the tools Moore has, that can bode well for a big step forward for the offense in 2016. It sounds as if the rapport between the two is developing, according to Lock.
"J’Mon has been one of my favorite guys to throw to," Lock said. "He realizes what this year is for him, he realizes that he can have a big year and he wants to make it happen."
The talent at wide receiver is there, but very little has come of it so far. If Moore can have the breakout season that everybody has been waiting for, he can be an example for the younger guys and be that leader the position was searching for last season.
Lock flanked by bodyguards
Before Lock took any questions Wednesday morning, offensive linemen Kevin Pendleton and Paul Adams stood to the left and right of their quarterback to "protect" him from the media.
It might seem like something small and funny, but it showed that Lock and the o-line have a good relationship. Perhaps that can be the reason why the o-line could hold its blocks for .001 of a second longer. It also showed that Pendleton and Adams, despite their redshirt sophomore status, have emerged as leaders on a very young offensive line along with Alec Abeln.
"Alec Abeln has probably taken the biggest role, but Pendleton and Paul Adams are right there," offensive line coach Glen Elarbee said.
Elarbee spoke highly of Adams and, like Moore, has improved vastly since the spring.
"He’s a technician," Elarbee said. "He’s so smart and technique-oriented. You tell him one thing and he fixes it immediately."
After failing to establish strength on the o-line last year, it sounds as if Elarbee has found a couple guys to build around while others get up to speed.