Were you worried? I must admit, I was getting there. From mid-June to mid-July, the Tigers landed a total of two commitments, both from prospects Missouri scouted while at their 7-on-7 camp in Columbia.
Meanwhile, in-state prospects chose to go elsewhere. Panic was unreasonable. Slight concern? Yeah, that was warranted, especially with five of the top seven players in the state committed elsewhere, and things seeming to trending in the wrong direction with Jeremiyah Love.
It’s not what you want, but the momentum is swinging back in a more positive direction after Lee’s Summit 4-star wide receiver Joshua Manning committed to the Tigers over reported offers from Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa State and Kansas State. Manning is the fifth known in-state commitment for Missouri in the 2023 class, joining Brett Norfleet, Jahkai Lang, Blake Craig, and Jamal Roberts.
I don’t want to undersell this. Manning is a big get for the Tigers. His original commit date was July 3rd, and we now know he was expecting at the time to commit to K-State. Something changed in the next two weeks, and now the 12th ranked player in the state and a top 50 wide receiver in the country has pledged his commitment to Mizzou. Kudos to Eli Drinkwitz in his staff for putting in the work to get what is a significant commitment out of the Kansas City area.
Where he fits: Joshua Manning is a different type of wide receiver for the Tigers, one they desperately need. Manning wins consistently as an outside wide receiver, and my guess is the Tigers view him as a traditional “X” receiver. He has the size (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) to grow into quite the force both across the middle and as a downfield threat.
Speaking of which, his highlights are littered with Manning “Mossing” opposing defenders. He seems to do an excellent job of tracking the ball and fighting for it at the ball’s highest point. Manning has a chance to be a real threat in the red zone, especially on slants and fades.
What impresses me most about Manning is his all-around game. He’s not Luther Burden III, but he wins in some of the same ways Burden does. He’s not a guy who needs the ball at or near the line of scrimmage, but you can get him the ball that way and he’ll make the first man miss. He plays through contact. He has the ability to beat a corner deep. He wins contested catches. He runs just about every route he’ll be asked to run at Mizzou. It’s really impressive to watch. This is a big get for he Tigers.
When he’ll play: I rarely suggest wide receivers can or will be early contributors because the learning curve is significant at the position from high school to the SEC. Guys like Luther Burden III can overcome said learning curve because of his overwhelming talent and his massive frame. Again, Manning isn’t Burden - who is - but I do think he could be someone who contributes right away. He has he size and speed to contribute in a similar role to what JJ Hester held last year. That role resulted in more than 200 yards and a couple touchdowns for Hester.
What it all means: Manning is probably my favorite player to watch in Missouri’s 2023 class. He’s big, he’s fast and he attacks the ball when it’s in the air. Those are skills that should translate to the next level right away.
Missouri also had a need for a receiver with Manning’s skillset. The Tigers are loaded with slot and gadget receivers. They’re limited when it comes to players who fit the “X” role as someone who can win on the outside against press coverage. Burden can do it if asked, but he’s best suited as a “Z” receiver. Mekhi Miller might be able to win outside, Ja’Marion Wayne certainly projects to that role and that’s where I expect to see Tauskie Dove line up this season.
For so many reasons, Manning was a big get. Missouri needed some momentum on the in-state recruiting front and it needed a wide receiver who wins the way he does. Add it all up, and this is quite the recruiting win for the Tigers.