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A closer look at Missouri's 2015 wide receivers: Young, talented, inexperienced

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Mizzou finds themselves faced with the task of turning a lot of athletic potential into a dynamic passing attack. The talent is there, but how quickly can they develop?

Nate Brown, WR, Mizzou
Nate Brown, WR, Mizzou
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, losing talent at any position is never fun, but there are very few positions that rely on depth as much as wide receiver. Spread offenses are well-known for rotating their receivers and Josh Henson’s Mizzou offense is no different.

After losing 8 receivers in the last two years, whether to graduation or discipline, Mizzou finds themselves faced with the task of taking an extremely inexperienced group of wide receivers and putting together a passing game to complement what should be a quality rushing attack.

The last two recruiting classes show that the staff knew how dire the receiver situation would be, and signed 8 receivers in the last two years. While all of the receivers have a long way to go before becoming consistent performers at the SEC level, they each do a couple things well that Coach Henson and the offensive staff can take advantage of to build a great offense.

Wesley Leftwich (SR.) 6'1" 205 lbs

Put simply, Leftwich’s biggest advantage is his speed. While he may not be particularly shifty, his ability to run in one direction extremely fast can be a big help to an offense.  We saw a flash of what could be right before halftime against Georgia, before seeing it drop off his hands. With Mauk’s tremendous arm strength and love of the deep ball, Leftwich could see a few bombs thrown his way this season. While watching his tape, something else that jumps out is ability on crossing routes.

The longer the route takes to develop, the more he can use his speed to beat the defender to where he needs to be. However, his routes as a whole need a lot of work. To become a receiver capable of the consistency the team needs, he will need to work on dropping his hips as he runs his routes, along with a lot of work on his hands.

J’Mon Moore (SO.) 6'3" 190 lbs

Moore is a long, lanky strider with quick feet and good body control. He seems to have a good understanding on how to use his routes to influence defensive backs, forcing them in one direction before making his final cut. With his quick feet, throws like slants and hitches should turn him into a competent possession receiver. His ability to sell routes and his decent-to-solid straight-line speed mean he could be able to take the top off a defense with a well run hitch-n-go. While it isn’t something you can gameplan around, on film I was impressed with his consistent effort to get open on a broken play.

Given Mauk’s propensity to scramble while still looking to throw downfield, that skill could become extremely important. Arguably Moore’s biggest problem is his strength, as he can struggle to get off of press coverage. With another offseason in Pat Ivey’s strength program, one can only assume that will improve. Moore shows the movement skills to be very successful, but he needs to show that he can consistently get open against college defenders.

Nate Brown (SO.) 6'3" 205 lbs

Brown was the most heralded recruit of the bunch, earning a four star rating and the attention of some big-time schools. In high school, he used his naturally large frame (6’3 205) and great ball skills to outmuscle defenders. If Brown can get his weight up (and his strength with it) in Ivey’s strength program, he should be able to do the same at this level. Despite not having particularly impressive straight-line speed, Brown is good at running with the ball in space, especially on screen passes. Quick bubble screens and now screens could be very effective with him getting the ball. His impressive catch radius and strong hands mean he could be a true difference-maker in the red zone.

With more time improving his strength and speed, Brown could become a very impressive receiver in this offense.

Keyon Dilosa (RSFR.)  6'3" 200 lbs

We’re already seeing flashes of Dilosa’s athleticism but how will he perform under the lights? In watching his recruiting highlight film, you can see that his athleticism definitely translates on the field. He’s very good already at running both now and bubble screens, and he will make big plays happen when the blocking is there.

You also, however, see quite a bit of inconsistency with his fundamentals, which the staff is assuredly working to fix. Dilosa has the potential to become a dangerous deep threat, but his impressive vertical will be wasted if he doesn’t improve his ability to catch the ball at its highest point.

DeSean Blair (RSFR.) 6'3" 190 lbs

The best attributes Blair has are his toughness and his ball skills. His highlight film shows him scoring a couple touchdowns purely based off of his will to score and that’s something that can’t be taught.

His fluid hips and good feet mean he’s able to run great deep out routes and comebacks, where his great body control will be a big help near the sidelines. As his strength grows he’ll have the capability to win a lot of jump balls. However, until he gains more strength and speed, he could struggle to get open against college defensive backs.

Thomas Richard (RSFR.) 6'1" 190 lbs

One skill that’s often rare to find in a receiver is the natural feel for the hole in a zone. Richard has that feel. The most popular way to get the ball to a player like that is running slants shallow routes, or dig routes.

This gives the receiver plenty of chances to find an open space in the defense downfield. Richard’s film is extremely impressive, but the talent level of the players he’s facing is questionable at best. It’s tough to see how he compares athletically against SEC-level players, but he looks to be a natural slot receiver.

Richaud Floyd (FR.) 5'11" 165 lbs

Floyd is purely a natural with the ball in his hands. He’ll play receiver at Mizzou, but his high school played him at quarterback, running back, and receiver. Henson could use him in much of the same way. Moving him around to different spots in the formation can give the opportunity to give him the ball in a wide variety of ways. Things like jet sweeps, WR options, and screen passes give him the opportunity to get the ball quickly and let him do his thing.

Where he doesn’t excel is with his purely wide receiver skills. He has the natural gifts to run great routes, but he needs to spend a lot of time working on them. He could also stand to improve his catch radius, to help him corral inaccurate passes. While lacking in precision, Floyd’s natural ability with the ball makes him an intriguing option to get touches this year.

Emanuel Hall (FR.) 6'3" 196 lbs

Hall doesn’t wow me athletically, neither straight-line speed nor lateral quickness. What is impressive is his footwork on his routes. Routes like curls and quick fades can take advantage of quick feet, even if there’s not an athletic advantage.

His catch radius is another plus, as he’s shown plus ability to catch the ball away from his frame. Hall probably won’t be physically ready to contribute immediately, but given time he could be a useful tool.

Johnathon Johnson (FR.) 5'8" 174 lbs

The first word that comes to mind when watching Johnson’s film is explosive. He has a special level of speed and great lateral quickness. He definitely should be considered a candidate to return kicks during his time on campus. His ability to cut on a dime is extremely useful when running out routes and he shows great ability after the catch when running slants.

He could also be successful getting the ball on fly sweeps. However, like any freshman, he’ll need lots of work on his fundamentals, and his diminutive size will also be a concern. Johnson has the potential to be a top-tier talent down the line, and a constant threat to go the distance.

Justin Smith (FR.) 6'7" 200 lbs

If ever there was a player to just send to the end zone and throw it up, it’s Smith. 6’7 is rare height for a receiver, and with so many teams still using small cornerbacks, he could be a serious mismatch. With a good catch radius and surprising agility in open space, Smith could end up being more than just a red zone threat, but he has a long way to go before he gets there.

With such long legs, it can be difficult to get his feet moving quickly when breaking on routes, but it’s something he needs to improve on to be able to get open. Also, being only 200 pounds at 6’7 is just too skinny, and he should struggle with bigger corners until he improves his playing strength. Smith is an intriguing prospect with rare size potential, but he’ll need to make some pretty big improvements before he sees real playing time.

Ronnell Perkins (FR.) 6'1" 175 lbs

I think Perkins projects best as a safety in college, but he could be a quality receiver too. He has natural ball skills and is a tough runner.

His fundamentals when tracking down deep passes are good, and he gets upfield quickly on routes breaking to the middle, like slants and quick ins. With effort, he could be a productive receiver with a nose for the endzone, but in my opinion his size and athleticism along with a strong hitting ability project better at safety.

Raymond Wingo (RSFR.) 6'0" 165 lbs

Originally signed as a cornerback, it appears that Wingo has a very real chance of permanently moving to receiver, and I think it could be a great thing for him.  In fact, many schools preferred him as a slotback-type player (think what we heard Murphy would be doing this year).  Wingo’s best attribute is his speed, which he has lots of (supposedly he ran a 4.28 in team testing recently), but he also has great instincts with the ball in his hands.  His speed and agility in space make him potentially dangerous on jet sweeps

and his experience playing quarterback in high school makes him intriguing as a wildcat-style QB.  There’s very little film on his route-running ability, but his quick feet and great athleticism mean he should be able to run good ones with some work.  Quick passes like slants, hitches, and speed outs are easy ways to get him the ball quickly and let him get into the secondary, where he is hard to bring down.  Wingo is hard to project, since he spent his first two years in the program at cornerback and his highlight film is mostly running plays, but his high-end athleticism and ability in space makes him potentially dangerous as a slot receiver.