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Recruiting Reset: Can Theo Wease, Jr. replace Dominic Lovett?

Missouri’s first portal addition of the 2023 offseason is a former 5-star wide receiver by way of Oklahoma.

Kansas v Oklahoma Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Missouri’s coaching staff understood the assignment. The Tigers were in desperate need for an immediate Dominic Lovett replacement. The former Missouri wide receiver announced his intentions to transfer shortly after the completion of the Tigers’ season. Lovett racked up 56 receptions for 846 yards and three touchdowns last season. Replacing that kind of production is no small task.

The Tigers found their replacement over the weekend in former 5-star recruit and Oklahoma wide receiver Theo Wease, Jr. The former Sooner started all 11 games in 2020 and finished tied for the team lead with 37 receptions. He missed nearly the entire 2021 season with a foot injury, but bounced back this past year with nearly 400 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

On the main recruiting services, Wease is ranked 5th (Rivals), 7th (247 Sports) and 35th (On3) among the wide receivers currently available in the transfer portal. Missouri lost a significant piece in the offense when Lovett opted to transfer. Wease should not be expected replace Lovett one-for-one, but he will be a significant piece of the puzzle.

Where he fits: This is why I think it’s unfair to call Wease a direct replacement for Lovett. They don’t really fit the same role. Lovett lined up primarily in the slot, but Wease spent more than 90 percent of his time lined up wide. They both make some big plays down the field; they just go about it in very different ways.

Wease finished the 2022 season with an average depth of target 13.4 yards down the field. For context, that would have been the deepest of any Missouri wide receiver last year, by a decent margin (Tauskie Dove led Missouri with a 12.7 ADOT). Pro Football Focus ranks receivers with an efficiency metric called “yards per route run.” It’s measured exactly as you would expect: divide a player’s total receiving yards by the number of routes said player ran. Lovett finished last season averaging 2.94 yards per route run. Barrett Banister was second on the team at 1.96, Luther Burden III was at 1.20, Mookie Cooper finished a 1.15 and Tauskie Dove was at 0.77 yards per route run. Wease finished with 2.0 yards per route run last season. Pretty good!

How did he get there? He was quite good on intermediate and deep routes.

  • On deep passes (20+ yards downfield): 3-for-7 for 134 yards and two touchdowns (129.5 QB Rating)
  • On intermediate targets (10-19 yards): 7-for-11 for 160 yards and two touchdowns (146.8 QB Rating)

Those numbers helped him rack up the 13th best yards per reception average last season (19.9 yards) among receivers with at least 30 targets.

When he’ll play: This one is easy. Wease should be expected to start right away. He should line up an outside receiver with the ability to win over the top and after the catch. He’s likely to replace the Tauskie Dove snaps in the offense. It’s worth noting Dove led Missouri’s receivers with 636 total snaps this season, almost 250 more than Lovett (399). We could see something similar in terms of snap count for Wease in Eli Drinkwitz’s offense.

What it all means: The Tigers should have their top wide receivers set for the 2023 season. My guess is Wease and Chance Luper/Mekhi Miller will open the season as the starting outside receivers with Burden and Cooper manning the slot. Incoming freshmen Joshua Manning and Daniel Blood could see some snaps as well.

I still think Missouri could use one more transfer wide receiver to add some depth to the group. It’s not a need so much as it is a want. The need was to find a legitimate starter to round out the 1-2 punch with Burden. Wease fits that role. Now the staff’s attention can turn to fortifying the offensive and defensive lines through the transfer portal.