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How J’Mon Moore can earn his “all-timer” credentials

Fewer mistakes, more memorable moments. Easy, right?

NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

As fall camp comes to a close, I’m noticing a trend from all the camp notes/observations/thoughts I see.

J’Mon Moore, the only returning 1,000 yard receiver in the SEC, isn’t showing up anywhere.

Right on the surface, this isn’t entirely surprising. Practice notes aren’t usually reserved for known commodities. Any diehard taking the time to sweat over the observations of a college football beat writer is already familiar with the team’s top performers. They’re more interested in the unknowns.

In Mizzou’s case, which freshmen are going to get a chance to play? Who’s going to pair off with Marcell Frazier to form the next great DE team? Is Drew Lock improving?

In a way, Moore is about as proven as they come. Any athlete gifted with his size, his speed and his numbers shouldn’t be questioned. Fans are confident these types of guys will contribute.

Ask many Mizzou fans how they feel about Moore, and you’ll likely hear differing opinions, a majority of which fall in the positive range. He is indeed an extraordinary athlete, and bad football players don’t put up the numbers that he’s put up.

But anyone who’s watched Moore over the past few years is also likely to have their doubts. Moore had a breakout year in his junior season, increasing his yardage by a little under 300% and doubling up on his touchdown numbers. But what if that was less of a step forward in his development and more his emergence as the lone upperclassman in pass-happy offense?

One could certainly point to his 18 dropped balls and untimely fumble against Georgia as evidence. Based on Moore’s comments at the recent SEC Media Days, he’s aware of those criticisms, and at least on some level, he’s taking them to heart.

During those interviews, he also stated he wants to become one of the great Mizzou wide receivers. It’s a loaded list, especially when one considers the program’s recent history. Let’s take a look at how Moore’s numbers — drops aside — match up with some of the best Tiger wideouts from the past 15 years before they went pro.

Mizzou WRs before they went pro

Player Receptions Yards Touchdowns Average
Player Receptions Yards Touchdowns Average
Justin Gage 82 1,075 9 13.1
William Franklin 49 709 4 14.5
Jeremy Maclin 102 1,260 13 12.4
Bud Sasser 77 1,003 12 13
Dorial Green-Beckham** 59 883 12 15
Marcus Lucas* 58 692 3 11.9
Danario Alexander* 113 1,781 14 15.8
J'Mon Moore*** 62 1,012 8 16.3

* Undrafted
** Spent one ineligible year at Oklahoma
*** Junior season

Again, you’re already looking at a pretty stacked group. And that’s not even including Mizzou greats who couldn’t buy any injury-luck in the league — guys like L’Damian Washington and T.J. Moe.

But a quick look at the basic numbers suggests Moore is already just about there from a production standpoint. His YPC was the highest in the group, and many didn’t break the 1,000 yard barrier. And it’d be unfair to expect to see a senior year like Danario Alexander’s again.

So if production isn’t in question, and we’ve already established — shocker! — that dropping passes is bad and he should do less of it, then what does Moore have to do to establish himself as one of the school’s greats and all but lock up his spot in an NFL training camp next year?

Moore’s path to Mizzou legend status is one likely to be paved in the minds of Mizzou fans. At the end of the day, getting to and sticking in the NFL is nice. But it doesn’t change the perception of your college career unless you’re a bonafide star.

Looking at the list above, we can pick out a name like Marcus Lucas. By the standard of going and staying pro, he’s among the most elite class of Mizzou wide receivers in history. But how many would really consider him one of the best to ever play at Mizzou?

On the other hand, you look at someone like Moe. An unfortunately timed Achilles injury kept him out of the league. But some fans look at his career as one deserving of “all-timer” status. The Moe Miracle against San Diego State is one of the most dramatic moments in recent memory. Plus, he was one of the team’s veteran leaders during the move to the SEC.

My personal perception of Moore is of a gifted-but-flawed playmaker whose lesser moments — the Georgia drop and a tendency to disappear/lose focus — dwarf his star-quality memories: scoring the go-ahead TD against BYU in 2015 or being a 1,000-yard receiver on a young offense in 2016.

The 2017 season presents an interesting opportunity for J’Mon Moore to leave those bad memories in the past. The national media expects him to put up star numbers in an dangerous offense. If you’re picking up what Missouri’s program is putting down, Drew Lock should be ready to make his breakout this year, which can only improve Moore’s chances. And some of the attention should come off of Moore with Damarea Crockett storming out of the backfield from the jump.

In the end though, the only thing that truly erases bad memories is the creation of new, better ones. For every good thing Moore does in 2017, fans will likely start forgetting those drops in 2016 one at a time. (And this says nothing of his role in the November 2015 protests, which certain fans will never be able to look past.)

The wide receiver depth on this year’s team creates something of a problem for No. 6. Jonathan Johnson and Demetrios Mason are equally as explosive in terms of athleticism, and the former is arguably more suited for taking the top off opposing defenses despite his smaller stature. And if Moore’s drop problems continue, Josh Heupel could look to other players for key possession down plays — the oft-injured Nate Brown could fill that role and has arguably more at stake this year than J’Mon does.

This puts Moore in an odd place where he’s likely going to be asked to do a lot, but may not get as many opportunities in big moments that fans are likely to remember.