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Luther Burden and Great Missouri Receiving Seasons

With one more game left for Luther Burden III to add to his breakout campaign, where does his season rank among the best years by Missouri pass catchers?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s tremendous football season was driven by a number of factors. Improved line play, a pair of clutch kicks, a revamped passing attack, a winning culture. But two ingredients stood out above all the others in the flavor profile: brilliant individual seasons from running back Cody Schrader and receiver Luther Burden III.

It was obvious how much these two stars meant to the success of the team – it was obvious whether you were just a casual fan flipping through the games on a Saturday, or a diehard, lifelong Mizzou Tiger. It was obvious to the local and the national media, as both players received heaps of publicity, All-America status from most outlets, and major award consideration.

Burden’s success gave the team legitimacy in the early going of the season, as he arrived on campus as a big name prospect and commanded attention from the jump. He thrived in September and October, as Missouri demonstrated their winning ways behind the newly explosive passing offense powered by Burden. But Schrader took over down the stretch, his powerhouse running clinching multiple close conference games and eventually a spot in a prestigious bowl game.

So where do these two singular seasons stack up among the annals of all-time Missouri campaigns? With one more game left to go, what can these superstars do to elevate themselves even higher on the list?

To answer this question, I will look at the top ten Missouri pass catcher seasons since 2000 and find Luther Burden’s rank in that chart, and next week I will do the same for Schrader and great rushing seasons. On to the list....

10.) Michael Egnew 2010: 90 catches, 762 yards, 5 TDs. Mackey Finalist, Consensus All-American.

Egnew’s 2010 season was excellent, but the key word here is “overshadowed.” 2010 is a great Missouri team overshadowed by the iconic outfits from 2007 and 2013. Egnew’s career is overshadowed by the two All-American tight ends that paved the way before him.

9.) J’Mon Moore 2017: 65 catches, 1,260 yards, 13 TDs.

J’Mon Moore had the luxury of playing in the Josh Heupel veer-and-shoot offense, which is a cheat code for deep ball receivers. His 2017 season barely nudges out his 2016 season, which was statistically very similar. Heupel, Drew Lock, and Moore made some beautiful downfield football together.

8.) T.J. Moe 2010: 92 catches, 1,045 yards, 6 TDs.

The “Moe Miracle” remains one of the most iconic Missouri football plays ever. Moe was an incredibly productive college player, and there is nothing else noteworthy about him or even worth talking about, no sir, that’s it. Lots of catches and yards, and then he disappeared into obscurity never to be heard from again.

7.) Martin Rucker 2007: 84 catches, 834 yards, 8 TDs. Consensus All-American.

Martin walked so that Chase could leap. The man they called Tee seemed to have a telepathic connection with Chase Daniel, and could always be relied on to move the chains. He also ran a killer slant on the goal line, and was great at making tough catches in traffic.

6.) Justin Gage 2002: 82 catches, 1,075 yards, 9 TDs

After this, every season on the rest of the countdown is responsible for All-American status and national award attention. Justin Gage’s underrated 2002 campaign did not get that kind of attention. Missouri football was still persona non grata on the national scene at this time. But I am ranking highly for degree of difficulty: this was Brad Smith’s freshman year, and at times his rawness hampered the passing game. This was also in an offensive system not designed to put up eye-popping numbers, like the playbooks that came later in the decade. Gage’s line is impressive any year, but borderline eye-popping considering he played in easily the worst pass game infrastructure of any season on this list.

5.) Luther Burden III 2023: 83 catches, 1,197 yards, 8 TDs. Biletnikoff Semifinalist, All-American.

After much deliberation, the esteemed committee of ball-knowers (me) has ranked Luther Burden III’s 2023 as the FIFTH best season by a Missouri pass-catcher since 2000. Burden’s stardom has drawn eyeballs to the program, in addition to his prowess at recruiting his talented peers. He is also extremely productive on the field, and his numbers could have been better if not for a series of nagging injuries. He will have a chance in Dallas to shine on the field against Ohio State, the sport’s preeminent pass catching factory. A massive game in the Cotton Bowl could vault Luther over the #4 line – but the top three here are inner-circle. Let’s hope he can make a run at them in 2024, though.

4.) Chase Coffman 2008: 90 catches, 987 yards, 10 TDs. Mackey winner, Consensus All-American.

The most iconic season of Mizzou’s great tight end run. Coffman hurdled his way into Mizzou memories, record books, and national attention. Nowadays it seems every game has a fun hurdle or two, but for a generation of Missouri fans, Coffman’s signature play is indelible in the internal highlight reel. When his Mizzou career ended, Chase was first in school history in touchdown catches and receptions, and second in receiving yards. He was the first Tiger to win a national position award.

3.) Jeremy Maclin 2007: 80 catches, 1,055 yards, 9 TDs. Consensus All-American.

2.) Jeremy Maclin 2008: 102 catches, 1,260 yards, 13 TDs. Biletnikoff Finalist, Consensus All-American.

I went back and forth on how to rank the two Maclin seasons. Ultimately, I gave 2008 the slight nod, because of the statistical edge, and the finalist for a prestigious position award. 2007’s case is built on better team success and the sheer magic and wonder that was Maclin as a freshman. By 2008 we expected brilliance; 2007 was an absolute lightning strike. The Chase Daniel-led offense of this era was a well-oiled machine, but Maclin’s sheer unstoppable talent added a jolt of magic to the rig. He is the best football player in Missouri history.

1.) Danario Alexander 2009, 113 catches, 1,781 yards, 14 TDs, All-American.

By 2009, we were accustomed to astonishing statistics by Missouri’s offensive players, and then Danario Alexander went out and submitted THAT effort. It is still a crime that he was not even a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. My only theory is that the voters of those years were so desensitized to big numbers from Big 12 passers and catchers that they overlooked the work Danario was doing.

Alexander put up a fine college career in one season. His 2009 towers above the rest; his 113 catches is 11 more than the next highest Mizzou effort, and his 1,781 yards clears second place by 521. It is the best season by a Missouri pass-catcher, hands down.