With the 2022 season officially over, it’s time to break down the performance of the team position by position. We’ll look at the stats for the year, the departing players, new additions, and some predictions for what we’ll see in 2023.
It’s time to look at the position with the highest recruiting rankings, highest potential, and massive inefficiency: the wide receivers.
How do you feel about the 2022 wide receiver performance? It seems like most people have mixed feelings about them!
On the one hand: Dominic Lovett was a revelation! On the other hand... he’s gone now.
But hey, there was Luther Burden III looking flashy! But, despite having the second-most targets on the team, it never felt like he was being utilized enough (SPOILER: that’s mostly the six drops he had on the season giving you that impression).
Barrett Banister was his usual unstoppable third-down-conversion-machine self, Mookie Cooper and Mekhi Miller had moments of impressive catches, but, overall, the Missouri passing game just seemed like it should have been more.
And now Mizzou heads into the ‘23 season with two flashy transfers - who haven’t done a lot at the college level - and missing three of their top five targets in the receiving corps. There are two former 5-stars and three former 4-stars in the room, meaning it is easily the most high-upside athletic position group on the team. But it’s also full of guys who are either waiting to make the leap or are still getting used to the game.
Upside and potential: high. Certainty and production: still way freaking low.
Let’s break it down.
I loved the Barrett Banister story and appreciated all six years he was able to give to Mizzou. He was never going to be a burner or some dude that Moss’d his defender; he was just a smart receiver that would sit in the zone, make the catch, and move the chains. Every team needs a receiver like that, and Banister will always have a special place in Mizzou lore for his service to the team.
Tauskie Dove was a possession receiver who got stuck run blocking most of the time. He was arguably the best receiver who could run block which would have him on the field for damn near every snap but the difficulty of the throws he would attract meant his catch rates and efficiency were rotten. To wit, last year he had a 45% catch rate. That’s bad. And even his junior year where he almost eclipsed 600 yards featured 0 touchdowns and a 57% catch rate. He was asked to make difficult catches and block the hell out of corners and he was excellent at one of those skills. He should tear it up at Memphis and it’ll be interesting to see how he does when Mizzou plays the blue and gray tigers next year.
Dom Lovett takes the Mekhi Wingo memorial trophy for “portal loss that’s a personal attack to me”. A young guy from the east side of the state who comes in, becomes a starter while still young, and hints at so much potential for the Tigers in the future...who throws it away to play for an SEC blue blood where he can win titles. I get it; rumors cited specific issues with Mizzou that weren’t going to change so if you want to get out, chase the bag, and win national titles at Georgia? That’s fine. Just don’t feed me that “HOME SWEET HOME” BS that he sent around the socials when he committed to the Bulldogs.
Missouri’s 2022 receiving corps finished with 2,387 yards, 10 touchdowns, a 66.2% catch rate, 12.1 yards per catch, and 8.0 yards per target.
Strip out the guys that aren’t coming back and you get this: 844 yards, 6 touchdowns, a 63.1% catch rate, 10.3 yards per catch, and 6.5 yards per target.
That returning total is two fewer yards than Lovett got on his own last year; all those touchdowns listed were by one guy (Luther Burden); and the efficiency is noticeably lower.
Mizzou is going to miss Lovett and Banister, if you haven’t figured that out yet.
But the pitch isn’t, “these receivers are going to do that again”. The pitch is “they’re going to improve like Dom did last offseason!” which... yeah, they could! Miller and Burden could absolutely make a leap, either with a full year in the program or moving them to positions that benefit their skills better (aka make ‘em slot guys!). Assuming Chance Luper has fully recovered and is back to form, he could be electric on the outside. And maybe Mookie and Peanut finally put it together and contribute the entire season what they managed to contribute in the last few games.
But, once again, we enter an offseason embracing potential maxed-out potential rather than seeing the actual breakthrough and waiting for it to happen again. I can’t wait to see what happens but I hesitate to lock-in group-wide improvement for the ‘23 campaign.
Whenever you get the chance to bring in two former blue-chip recruits, you do it. It’s exciting and immediately upgrades the athleticism of the position group, no doubt. But Theo Wease, Jr. profiles as a bigger-play Tauskie Dove and Dannis Jackson has only earned 35 targets over five years, including sitting the ‘22 season out.
At some point, the recruiting rankings cease to matter and it's your production that counts. And while the production is fine (more so for Wease), it’s yet another grab at potential rather than proven production.
And, hey, maybe that’s just where Missouri is as a program; they don’t have the history or NIL to drag an all-conference caliber performer away but can lure in unproven blue-chippers who haven’t maxed out or struggle to see the field. I’m certainly ok with that!
Wease could be a deadly possession guy on the outside, and Jackson profiles as an all-gas/no-breaks deep shot specialist with his career 54% catch rate but 17 yards per catch. If he (or Luper) can provide a reliable downfield speed threat this offense really starts to open up. Here’s hoping Coach Peeler and his “Nasty Wide Outs” brand can build these dudes up to reach their potential.
Joshua Manning 2022 receiving stats: 63 catches, 844 yards, 14 TDs
Marquis Johnson 2022 receiving stats: 38 catches, 740 yards, 9 TDs
Daniel Blood 2022 receiving stats: 20 catches, 441 yards, 10 TDs
Last year’s recruiting class featured the first building blocks of the receiving room, with Burden, Miller, and Wayne providing three different skill sets to anchor the receiving corps. This year, Mizzou adds a second wave of reinforcements to the group, with a speedy slot-type (Johnson), versatile-do-everything scorer (Blood), and a big-play possession type (Manning). It would be cool if even one of these three were added to the regular rotation as it would mean that they are ready to go and that rocks. The best thing that could happen, however, is to get maybe 30 snaps over the year in situational roles; enough to work with the 1s and get reps against college defenses, but not enough where they have to make plays or this team is screwed.
- Prediction: Missouri has two receivers finish the year with 600+ yards
- Bold Prediction: Missouri has its first 1,100+ yard receiver since 2009
- HOT TAKE: Luther Burden - spending the ‘22 season looking “mortal” to give the rest of college football a chance to win stuff and do well - explodes for a 2,000+ yard receiving year, capped by a Heisman-sealing play against Arkansas where he takes the snap as a Wildcat quarterback, throws it 60 yards downfield, and catches it for a touchdown.