If you watched any amount of Mizzou football last year, you probably had a feeling Eli Drinkwitz would look to upgrade at receiver after taking the job.
Last year was just the second time since 2005 the Tigers failed to have a wide receiver finish the season with at least 500 yards. With so little returning production at such an important position, Drinkwitz immediately went to work to find some proven commodities.
Suddenly, a team with zero receivers on the roster boasting more than 750 career receiving yards found two of them on the open market. Drinkwitz’s first target was former Virginia Tech receiver Damon Hazelton. He then added former Angelo State receiver Keke Chism to the mix later in the summer.
Chism has been the new addition getting the pre-season hype. And let’s be honest, it’s certainly warranted. If you like big, strong, fast receivers with a basketball background, Chism has quite the story.
But let’s not forget about the other transfer receiver.
Hazelton is quite the story himself.
Hazelton was an unheralded 2-star 2016 recruit out of the Baltimore area. His Rivals profile doesn’t list a single power five offer.
He immediately made an impact in his true freshman year at Ball State, playing 11 games and starting in seven. He finished the year winning the award for the team’s top freshman after finishing second on the team with 51 receptions and more than 500 receiving yards.
It was good enough to earn Hazelton that offer he was missing from a power five school. He decided to take his talents to Virginia Tech.
After sitting out a year, Hazelton once again burst on the scene. He led the Hokies in all major receiving categories as a redshirt sophomore. He followed that up with another impressive eight touchdown campaign last season despite missing three games due to injury.
The numbers are freakish.
He caught 16 touchdowns over his two seasons at Virginia Tech. The only other returning power five receivers with more receiving touchdowns than Hazelton over the last two years are Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), Devonta Smith (Alabama), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) and Tamorrion Terry (Florida State).
But it’s not just the touchdowns, it’s the way he finds himself in the end zone. Hazelton reminds me - stylistically - of watching J’Mon Moore. He’s long and fast with the ability to score from just about any area of the field.
He’s listed at 6-foot-3, and he certainly knows how to use his frame to go up and get it.
But he’s not exclusively a “go up and get it” receiver. He also has the ability to outrun a corner on a fade.
Hazelton’s best work comes in the red zone. He’s not afraid to get physical, and he has a knack for coming down with contested catches.
If there’s one play in which his combination of physicality and speed are on full display, it’s this one, in a game last year against Rhode Island in which he stiff arms two players on his path to the end zone.
Hazelton has proven production to go along with an impressive combination of size and speed for the position. It’s rare for a player like this to hit the grad transfer market. It’s even more rare for a player of Hazelton’s ilk to end up at Mizzou for his final season.
Keke Chism is the grad transfer receiver getting the pre-season hype. It’s warranted, but let’s not forget about Hazelton.
Mizzou’s quarterbacks certainly won’t.