The double dip will kill you.
Mizzou boasted one of the deepest, biggest receiving corps in the country in 2013, and Josh Henson, offensive coordinator at the time, knew exactly how to deploy it effectively. When all three starters — Dorial Green-Beckham, L'Damian Washington, and Marcus Lucas — all departed, there was a pretty harsh reset.
At least, there should have been. But with Bud Sasser leading the way, the receiving corps managed to continue playing at a certain level in 2014. There was a drop-off, but not enough of one to knock the Tigers from the top of the SEC East standings.
Unfortunately, Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, and Darius White were all seniors. They left ... and there was nothing left.
The combination of six lost starters, some dismissals, some recruiting misses, etc., left the depth chart in a dire state. Mizzou's 2015 receiving corps consisted of two little-used sophomores (J'Mon Moore and Nate Brown), a very little-used senior (Wes Leftwich) and a grab bag of walk-ons and freshmen.
Moore and Brown had their moments early in the year against weaker competition, but they were dreadfully inconsistent, and when combined with injuries at running back and on the offensive line, and a freshman QB behind center, the Mizzou offense plummeted in spectacular fashion. And then Brown got hurt and missed 2016.
That meant that the 2016 receiving corps was nearly as young as 2015’s. Moore was a junior, and slot Chris Black and tight end Sean Culkin were seniors, but the Nos. 2-4 leading receivers behind Moore were a true freshman (Dimetrios Mason), a redshirt freshman (Johnathon Johnson), and a true sophomore (Emanuel Hall). Moore was all sorts of inconsistent until the end of the year, too. Toss in a true sophomore quarterback learning his second system in two years, and you’ve got a recipe for dramatic inconsistency. Sure enough, that’s what Mizzou got.
BUT! Missouri still improved from 119th to a solid 32nd in Passing S&P+. The limitations were obvious, and the duds were pretty impressive duds, but that’s still one hell of a leap. And when you take into consideration the importance of continuity in a receiving corps, the fact that more than 80 percent of last year’s targets are back is exciting.
And there are still only two senior wideouts.
(Slot receivers are in red, former four-star recruits in bold.)
Mizzou lost two commits — Jafar Armstrong to Notre Dame, Elijah Gardiner to Ohio State — late in the 2018 recruiting process, and while that opened up a scholarship for likely slot receiver O’Shae Clark, Barry Odom and the Tigers signed only two receivers instead of the intended three. And you see with all the red above, there’s a bit of an imbalance.
Mizzou now has four slot receivers despite playing only one for a solid percentage of the time, and the Tigers have seven outside receivers despite playing two. That’s not much imbalance in 2017, but it becomes noteworthy next year, when Moore and Dominic Collins graduate, leaving five outsides and four slots for 2018 and, presumably, three of each for 2019.
Obviously you can move guys around, but Wingo, Johnson, Floyd, and Clark are all slot prototypes.
So Mizzou will likely need to land some bigger targets soon. Per the 247Sports database, Odom and company have offered over 30 receivers and appear to be in at least decent shape with a few high-profile guys. CBC stud Kamyrn Babb is the obvious headliner, but other targets like Texas three-star Kam Scott, Georgia three-star Sam James, and Memphis athlete Kundarrius Taylor have growing offer lists. And for that matter, Hazelwood Central star Dallas Craddieth could end up a receiver if he needs to at his school of choice.
To get Babb and/or the other top targets, Mizzou is going to need to win some games this fall. And while this series is partially about how the future is lining up, Moore is particularly fascinating in the present tense, and his success could flip a number of relative tossups, thereby impacting recruiting success. He was absolutely brilliant over the last three games of the year, and while he won’t be that good over a full season (few are), further maturation could give Mizzou its first semi-steady No. 1 receiver since 2014. And guys like Dimetrios Mason and Johnathon Johnson could play off of that awfully well.