Last week we previewed a deep, experienced group of running backs that will be relied upon to literally carry the offense to success.
Today we look at a position group that literally dropped the ball in production and effectiveness. Let’s EXORCISE THE DEMONS of 2019 and look to what the departed receivers did last year:
Jonathan Nance/Johnathon Johnson/Kam Scott in 2019
- 128 targets
- 77 catches
- 1,080 yards
- 4 TDs
- 60% catch rate
- 47% success rate
If this was one receiver, that would be an excellent year, despite a serious case of inefficiency. As you know, instead, that was three guys that commanded 35% of the targets and did....fine?...with those targets. Kam Scott was the big play threat but didn’t get much playing time as the season went on, especially after pushing a Georgia player in frustration and getting benched. Nance and Johnson would be good support pieces in any competent offense but weren’t good enough to be #1 guys and drag a young receiving corps to a reasonable threat for defenses. And to add insult to injury, they weren’t good enough at running blocking to support the ground game.
So here’s what’s left for the 2020 squad:
The Old Guard
Jalen Knox, Barrett Banister, Micah Wilson, and Dominic Gicinto
Combined, these four accounted for 83 targets, 50 catches, 614 yards, and 2 touchdowns. That’s a catch rate of 60.2% and a success rate of 45.7%, a really close copy of the three departed receivers. Keep in mind, Micah Wilson has yet to be targeted as a receiver and Barrett Banister was the best of this group. The walk-on from Arkansas had an 84% catch rate and a 62.5% success rate, nearly double what Jalen Knox’s success rate was. But Knox was ten points better than Dom Gicinto’s debacle of a year, managing a meager 26% on his catch rate and success rate on only 15 targets. Needless to say, this group is going to have to have someone step up and produce. With Knox getting bumped over to the slot-receiver position, all four of these guys could fill that spot. Knox has the potential, Banister has the track record, and Gicinto/Wilson can be fill-in guys if their skills don’t get better.
Damon Hazelton, Jr. and Keke Chism
When you bring on a graduate transfer, you expect them to contribute immediately. When said graduate transfer comes in to a position of need, you’re desperate for them to contribute immediately. And when you hear the rave reviews of the coaching staff and their peers...you start getting excited to see them contribute immediately.
The expectations for these two are rising through the roof, but regardless, they’ll be looked to as the main threats in the passing game, especially early in the year. Hazelton’s 45.6% catch rate on 16.9 yards per catch in 2019 screams a burner-type of receiver, a guy that draws safety coverage as he sprints deep down field. He was injured last year and only played 9-games, but his 2018 stats - 55.4% catch rate, 15.7 yards per catch - pair to give the same story as the shortened 2019 version.
I wish FCS kept targeting data so I could get a better read of Chism; however, he’s built like Danario Alexander and is only 500 yards shy of topping Alexander’s career output. Yes, that was against FCS defenses, but he had FCS offensive talent around him so don’t discount it too much. He’s big, physical, and his current/former teammates rave about his work ethic. I, for one, have the craziest amount of expectations unfairly lumped on him but can’t wait to see what he can do.
The Young Guns
Tauskie Dove, C.J. Boone, and Maurice Massey
Dove’s two catches in 2019 lead this batch of receivers, but in fairness to Boone and Massey, they took their redshirts the old-fashioned way: on the bench. All three were 3-stars with Boone and Massey damn-near 4-stars, so the expectations for this batch will be high and anything they can contribute is going to help. All three are over 6’3”, and if you’re dreaming of Missouri’s 2013 receiving corps of basketball-sized players then you’re sharing my head space. None have really proven anything (outside of Dove’s giant catches against Arkansas), but the talent is certainly there.
The New Blood
Jay Maclin, Kris Abrams-Draine, J.J. Hester, and Chance Luper
There’s a solid chance that it’ll take me two full years to not type “Jeremy Maclin,” but that’s a “me” problem. Maclin the Younger, Abrams-Draine, and Hester were high 3-stars, while Luper, the son of our esteemed running backs coach, was a 2-star prospect that is a preferred walk-on for this season. Given the fact that Luper was one of the first receivers to “earn his number,” there’s a solid chance that he, a.) finds a way to contribute this year, and b.) earns a scholarship once the Tigers get back to their normal allotted scholarship amount. With eligibility being frozen for the year, regardless of if a player sees the field or not, you can expect to see these guys trotted out at some point. But even with their tremendous athleticism and potential, I can’t imagine they crack the starting rotation consistently. If they do, though, it means that the future looks bright.
What would dumb Nate do?
Run a full-on, hockey-style platoon approach to receivers, shuffling on four different guys every play. If everyone can get experience and it doesn’t matter for eligibility, use this weird season as a live experiment and figure out what you have long term. Yes, Hazelton and Chism can stay out longer if they want to improve their draft stock, but get everyone targets and experience because this year is “Whose Line Is It Anyway” rules: it doesn’t matter.
What’s actually going to happen?
Hazelton and Chism start on the outside, Knox and Banister split snaps at the slot, and one the freshmen earn starting snaps. My money is on Boone, Massey, or Hester.