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In the Huddle: The frustrations of being a receiver

The much-hyped Keke Chism was frustrated after a lack of targets against Alabama. Coach Terry Dennis has some encouragements — and some challenges — for him and the rest of the Mizzou wideouts.

Mizzou has seen its fair share of talent at the wide receiver position over the past decade.

We’re not so far removed from the likes of Jeremy Maclin, Danario Alexander, Tommy Saunders, Jared Perry, and Will Franklin. And yet, from the perimeter has emerged outstanding players such as L’Damian Washington, Jerrell Jackson, Wes Kemp, Bud Sasser, Jimmy Hunt, DGB, Marcus Lucas, J’Mon Moore and others. All have held the honor of not only electrifying Faurot Field on game days throughout their careers, but being fortunate enough to take their talents to the next level.

From a young age, young boys dream of being the guy who catches the passes: who gets their name called; who streaks downfield past defenders; who makes the ESPN Top 10; who makes defenders miss en route to the end zone. There’s a saying that echoed through the receiver group just prior to the start of this decade: “Everybody wants to be a.....WIDEOUT!”

As a, “WIDEOUT,” you want the ball. But there’s more to it than that. There’s also the areas of reading coverage, adjusting routes, stalk blocking, creating separation, and stepping to the line with a plan of action. When there’s more than meets the naked eye, what happens when a receiver doesn’t get to be a literal Receiver — the one who gets targeted to make those big plays? Football is a game of inches that requires a short-term memory. For receivers, just like many other positions, it’s about being right here, right now, in the moment, with the added expectation that when the ball is in the air, it’s yours. That’s a lot of pressure for a guy trying to prove himself at this level.

Though Alabama is who we thought they were in week one. Mizzou certainly showed strides in several areas on offense, from receivers, to the backfield and Offensive Line play. For some players, though, the overall strides might not have produced the outcome they wanted.

Take Angelo State transfer Wide Receiver, Keke Chism. Following this past week’s game, Chism was quite vocal(ly upset) about his lack of targets. For any Receiver, this reaction is both a blessing and a curse. Many players often use a loss as a moment to soak in the feeling; realizing that, “we don’t want to ever feel this way again.” Factor in essentially not being able to do the job you’re here to do — to work an entire offseason only to not get the field recognition you feel you deserve — it’s almost an, “adding insult to injury,” situation.

Still, at such a high-profile position, Receivers have a choice to make in this position. They can either adapt and prepare for the next opportunity or dwell on the last game, the last drop, or the next chance to go unrecognized. Mental toughness far surpasses the Prima Donna persona that comes with being a Receiver. To continue being great at that position, young men like Chism must adapt and evolve.

As a football player, coming to a Power 5 school comes with expectations, from the player and program, to fans and spectators. Receiver is one of those positions that people pay to see, so naturally Receivers want to put on a show. As stated, the position has its highs and its lows; sometimes at the cost of not being targeted as much.

Many things can go into it: was there a significant pass rush; was the Receiver able to get off the jam/get open; was the correct route run; can the QB trust him; are you confident that just like this past week, that your Receiver can beat two potential first round corners?

The fact of the matter is that each player has his job. It’s his job to do his job and not anyone else’s job for him. Doing his job makes everyone else’s job easier — you see it all the time in traditional winning programs like Alabama, like LSU, etc. Frustration, however necessary it may feel, can both help and hinder that progress.

It’s important to note that if a player has done everything in their ability to excel each play, each drive, each quarter, each half, each game — they did not fail. This is an easy trap to fall into — a very simple mindset to take. In fact, it’s the easy way out. It’s a player’s responsibility to understand that whether or not he got targeted, the goal is a team win, not an individual one. You may want the stats, but the team needs the win. You may feel you could have done something to change the outcome, but the team lost, not just you.

In a season where each game is precious, as if each could be the last, every rep is precious. Leave no doubt! Players like Keke Chism know their time is coming. The key is being ready when your number is called and just as ready when it’s not.