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If Chris Black stays healthy, he will play a vital role for Missouri

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An efficient, oft-injured slot receiver at Alabama, Black has one last chance to stay healthy and prove himself.

Alabama Spring Game Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Chris Black

6’0, 192, Sr.

Jacksonville, FL
2015: 4 targets, 2 catches (50%), 23 yards (5.8 per target)
2014: 18 targets, 15 catches (83%), 188 yards (10.4 per target)
2013: 8 targets, 8 catches (100%), 79 yards (9.9 per target), 2 TD

davidcmorrison: Chris Black’s utility to an unproven Missouri receiving corps breaks down into three categories: hands, routes and YAC.

The hands part...I’ve heard mixed things. And, for the waterbug-type slot guys who make their living among headhunting linebackers, safeties and nickelbacks, hearing footsteps is an ever-present danger. Routes, he should be golden. He’s played in the slot for three seasons at one of the nation’s marquee programs and picked up a thing or two along the way.

Those first two aspects combine into one blanket term: precision. You need precision in your slot passing game, above all else. Missouri completed only 47 percent of its passes to slot receivers last year. Imprecise.

The third, YAC, is something the Tigers haven’t had since, really, L’Damian Washington. Jimmie Hunt showed spurts of that open-field elusiveness and ability to outrun a defense, but never consistently enough to be one of those game-changing slot receivers.

If Black happens to run a route short of the sticks on third down, can he manufacture his way past them? Does he have enough elusiveness still, after his ankle issues, to gain separation on underneath routes or make chicken salad out of chicken ... doody? ... when his exterior blocking breaks down on swings and screens, as it often will?

Oscar Gamble: I’m really not sure what to expect from Chris Black. I get that he was a former four-star wide receiver from Alabama, but he struggled with ankle injuries (tweaking it again during the spring) and never really demonstrated durability or production. Plus, how many college teams will be asking as much from their slot receiver as the Tigers will of the redshirt senior?

I think Black’s biggest impact will be how he allows the other receivers to fit into their more natural roles and how he becomes a reliable release valve for Drew Lock. He has a dogged work ethic that I think offers a strong role model for the rest of this young corps.

I have heard he can struggle with routine catches so that’s something I’m going to evaluate during fall camp.

Pboggs: Black fills a huge void for Mizzou. With Heupel’s fast-paced offense, Mizzou will need receivers capable of blocking out defenders and competing for the ball just like Black can.

This highlight versus West Virginia shows how well Black can fit in with Heupel’s offense. As he catches the ball he is aware of the first down line, gets hit and moves the ball north. This is something Mizzou’s offense was not able to do last year.

Drew Lock’s confidence should rise with the addition of Black. The big question still remains, can Chris Black stay healthy?

TheRonDavis: One more year is all that Chris Black has left to make an impact. Black was a very highly-touted receiver coming out of high school but never maximized his full potential at Alabama.

Black joins a group of receivers at Missouri who have yet to break out. There are a lot of young guys on the roster, and at the very minimum, Black can at least show them how it’s done at the highest of levels. He’s been a part of a championship team, and he’s played in BCS bowl games and nationally-televised, big games.

That’s his minimum contribution. He’s a starting receiver who has experience. That can bode very well for Drew Lock, who desperately needs someone to step up as “the guy” at receiver. “The guy” doesn’t have to lead the team in yards or touchdowns, but he has to be reliable when Lock is in trouble. I think Black is a starter in Week 1, and I think his greatest impact for the Tigers will be behind-the-scenes, teaching the younger receivers.

Sam Snelling: Can Black stay healthy? He’s certainly shown he’s got the talent to be the kind of impact receiver Missouri needs, but it’s hard to get excited about a guy who’s spent most of his career watching football instead of playing football.

It’s nice for Missouri to pick up experience in a guy who has been a part of a program like Alabama, but he wasn’t exactly tearing it up, so I’ll call my levels of excitement “reserved” on Black staying healthy long enough to make a real impact.

Bill C.: Without immediately knowing anything about the defensive pressure he was dealing with, I have to say I'm excited about Chris Black for one simple reason: In three years at Alabama, he caught 25 of 30 passes. That's an 83 percent catch rate, basically what you hope for out of a running back and just about perfect for a slot receiver. He averaged only 11.6 yards per catch in that span, but that still works out to 9.7 yards per target. That'll play.

Black will obviously be the focus of more defensive attention in Columbia, however. If Nate Brown, J'Mon Moore, and company aren't experiencing some sort of slight breakthrough on the outside, then opponents will be able to corral him pretty easily. The slot is usually more of a complement than a go-to guy, but my hope for this offense is based in part on the simple presence of an efficiency guy of any kind. Mizzou had zero last year. Now it has at least one.

As long as he's healthy. (Sensing a theme there?)