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Mizzou’s wide receivers offer a glimpse into a bright future

Of all the position groups, perhaps none is more talented than the pass catchers. But what should we expect from them when many are still so young?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Central Michigan at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Believe it or not, we’re just a few months away from another season of Missouri Tiger football. As we do every summer, we’ve gathered the editorial staff to answer various questions about the different position groups across the roster.

Be honest, when we started our annual position preview roundtables last week, y’all had already circled the wide receiver position, right?

Eli Drinkwitz has upped the talent level all across the Missouri roster and nowhere is that more obvious than in the pass catchers room. From the signing of Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper last season to the celebrated commitment of Luther Burden this year, Mizzou’s receivers have become the beacon of hope for this roster. That being said... they’re still pretty young. So what’s fair to expect of them this year?

If you want to catch up on our previous posts in the series — and that’s not much of an ask at this point as we’ve only done one! — you can click the links below:

We’ve covered the presence of wunderkind Luther Burden in every way imaginable, so let’s keep this simple. What are your expectations for Burden in his freshman season as a Tiger?

Aaron Dryden, Staff Football Analyst: Luther Burden is going to do some great things this year. That said, I am starting to worry that the hype is beginning to exceed what the product will ultimately be. Not that he doesn’t deserve the hype. He really is that caliber of player, but at the end of the day, he’s still a freshman. There will still probably be growing pains that come with adjusting to college football. That’s okay. He can still have a large impact on this offense, I just think we need to tamper expectations as a whole.

To directly answer the question; I’d like to see Burden continue to develop the technical side to his game and try and establish some sort of consistency. Be a reliable target.

From a statistical perspective, say... 40-50 receptions, 400-450 yards and 5-7 touchdowns. Somewhere in that general area. That is a successful freshman season in my eyes.

Parker Gillam, Football Beat Writer: Alright, per the question I will keep things simple. Luther Burden thoroughly impressed me with his spring game performance, showing off his full arsenal of skills in the air and with the ball in his hands. He’s the whole package and then some.

With that being said, there are some things working against him. The quarterback situation is somewhat of a question mark, and if Brady Cook or Tyler Macon each struggle, then obviously Burden would as well. On top of that, Burden is not the kind of freshman who is going to take anybody by surprise thanks to the hype he received coming in, and he is going to play some of the best defensive backs in the country. I think he’ll come across some matchups he may struggle against, and how he responds to that will determine how his season goes.

So, now for my prediction. Luther Burden will be the #1 wide receiver on this team with roughly 45 receptions, 800 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns, and will land on the freshman All-American team. Yes, he is going to have a great season. The amount of hype he has received makes me wary of saying that, but I’d be stunned if he did not excel at Faurot Field in 2022.

Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: Perhaps it’s not exactly fair to put too high of expectations on a freshman, but when you’re coming in as the No. 1 ranked wide receiver in the country you’re expected to produce right away. As Parker said, the quarterback situation isn’t exactly beneficial for Luther Burden but this is where he is going to need to step up and make some big-time plays. He was the best player on the field for an elite East St. Louis team for a reason. Obviously, this level of competition is different and there will be some struggles and growing pains — but it’s also fair to expect he is still capable of putting up a monster freshman campaign.

I don’t want to predict his exact season statistics, but at the end of the year — I think he will at least be in the running for the SEC Freshman of the Year.

With Burden dominating the discourse, it’s easy to forget about all the other exceptional talents in the wide receiver corp. Name one other Mizzou receiver you can’t wait to watch this fall.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 North Texas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Aaron Dryden: Yes, I’m excited about Cooper and Lovett. How can you not be?

However, it’s the other freshman wide receivers that I’m excited to see. Both Mekhi Miller and Ja’Marion Wayne have some skills that are worth paying attention to see if they can’t crack the rotation somehow. I liked both out of high school and would like to see what they could add to this team as freshmen. There are a lot of qualified bodies in this receiver room, so it’ll certainly be an uphill battle but if they can find a way to make it happen, it will absolutely be an impressive feat.

Parker Gillam: There are three great options for this one, so I will quickly shout out the other two. Tauskie Dove and Chance Luper both came a long way throughout the course of last season and had some great games between the two of them. Their combination of size and speed makes them perfect downfield targets, and I think they will take steps forward this year.

But, my actual answer would have to be Dominic Lovett. He had 26 catches for 173 yards last season, but that came without many chances down the field. Lovett is a big-play receiver with the speed to get by opposing defensive backs. He was the star of the WR core in the spring game in my eyes, and I think he is going to take a huge leap as a sophomore with his former high school teammate in Burden joining him out wide.

Sammy Stava: If healthy, I’m excited for Mookie Cooper. Injuries set him back last season as he missed a couple of games. He only had one receiving touchdown, but it came at the right time in a huge game against South Carolina. He did show some flashes as well with 17 receptions for 194 yards. I think he will have a breakthrough season because another year of learning this offense will be a huge help. After not seeing the field at Ohio State and an injury-riddled season, he’s got something to prove this year.

Overall, this is arguably the best unit on the team — and Cooper has the makings to be a huge part of it.

Eli Drinkwitz has specialized in bringing in a lot of exciting tight end talent, but we have yet to see the fully realize potential of any one player. Which of Mizzou’s young TE’s will finally make the leap this year?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Aaron Dryden: Tight end is going to be a very interesting place to watch. There’s very limited experience here and the tight ends are a pretty big part of Missouri’s game on offense.

I’m fascinated with a guy like Gavin McKay in 2022. He’s a redshirt freshman, was recruited by Drinkwitz’s staff and profiles as a glorified wide receiver at the tight end position. This is his chance to ascend up the depth chart and add a different dimension to the offense that really hasn’t been at the tight end spot since Albert O. Missouri needs more athleticism at the tight end spot and McKay can provide that. My main concern, is that because of his lighter frame, he may not hold up as well in the blocking game. Which is not really a negotiable responsibility for this offense.

Parker Gillam: Frankly, I think Tyler Johnson is going to come in from Buffalo and take the majority of the starting snaps at tight end, but that doesn’t mean he will be the only contributor. I really liked Ryan Hoerstkamp coming out of high school, but I think a redshirt season was needed to catch him up both physically and mentally to this level. He has great athleticism and hands, and Drinkwitz would love to be able to use the tight ends in the passing game more often. Johnson may steal a lot of the snaps, but I’ll take Hoerstkamp to have more receiving yards and touchdowns.

Sammy Stava: I like Ryan Hoerstkamp to make the big step, which seems like the obvious answer here. Of course he didn’t play much as he redshirted last season, but I think it helps that he did get some playing time in the Armed Forces Bowl. He definitely has the body size of a tight end and can have a big impact on this team this season. I think Drinkwitz can utilize him as a receiving target in short yardage touchdown scenarios.

Have any questions you want answered about different positions on the roster? Let us know in the comments and we’ll submit them to be included in our coming features!