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2015 Missouri football: ESPN on Mauk and the latest on the competition at WR and DE

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Here are some links and ESPN features you may have missed as spring practice came to an end last week.

Rickey Hatley (#95) could be Mizzou's best kept secret on the defensive line
Rickey Hatley (#95) could be Mizzou's best kept secret on the defensive line
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou Tigers pennant Maty Mauk

ESPN: "SEC QBs return to action"

ESPN: "2015 Spring Football Tour: Missouri's Mauk"

Mizzou Tigers pennant WRs: Brown, Moore and then ... ?

By now the names of Nate Brown and J'Mon Moore keep getting brought up in the discussion for who will step up at the voids left by Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt. J'Mon Moore looks set to take over at the X and provide Mizzou with a deep threat, while Nate Brown's athleticism and route-running make him a natural fit at the Y-slot receiver position where Hunt made hay. As long as those two stay healthy, I think the X and Y positions are already decided.

The battle for the Z position will come down to Wesley Leftwich and a group of candidates like Keyon Dilosa, DeSean Blair, Thomas Richard and Eric Laurent, who will get chances behind Moore and Brown. It is rare for a freshman to come into Mizzou and earn run on the first team but the lack of experience on the roster could mean we see the talented newcomers get some time, especially as the season goes on.

Until then I expect we'll see a very run-heavy Mizzou through the non-conference schedule.

ESPN: David Ching "SEC East's biggest breakout player? Nate Brown"

Instead, give me Missouri receiver Nate Brown.

A knee injury sidelined Brown this spring, allowing J'Mon Moore to rack up receptions in the Tigers' spring scrimmages. However, Brown should be back on the practice field soon, and the Tigers need the sophomore wideout to start developing into the productive starter they believe he will become.

This is an offense that lost senior receivers Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White, a trio that combined for 147 catches, 2,073 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2014. Even if 1,000-yard rusher Russell Hansbrough enjoys an expanded role this fall, quarterback Maty Mauk still has to throw to somebody in order for Missouri to maintain run-pass balance. But Mauk's young receivers have been inconsistent while attempting to replace the departed veterans.

Injury-marred spring doesn’t deter MU receiver Nate Brown | Tod Palmer

Quarterback Maty Mauk praised Brown’s approach to off-the-field improvement.

"He’s always in the film room," Mauk said. "He’s always asking me questions, ‘Hey, what are you thinking here with two high safeties?’ … That’s what I love coming from a young receiver and guy that I know is going to be pushing himself to get better every day. I’m excited to be right beside him and to help him out."

Mizzou football's 10 to watch : Dave Matter

J’Mon Moore, wide receiver

Who is this team’s No. 1 receiver? Does it have one? Does it matter? When there’s not a clear-cut No. 1 option in this offense, the tendency has been to load up on passes to a slot receiver who poses matchup problems in the middle of the field. That didn’t appear to be the strategy this spring as Moore led the team by a wide margin with 13 scrimmage catches for 136 yards, plus two of the three TD passes thrown in the four scrimmages. He might have the most pure talent of any receiver on the team, but can he put it together to become a consistent threat for Mauk and a reliable option when the team needs to convert a third-and-6? That’s what Bud Sasser became last year and was the team’s most valuable offensive player because of his ability to get open and grab the ball when everyone in the stadium knew it was coming his way. Is Moore ready to take on that role? He had a chance to convert a third down in the third scrimmage, made a nice grab along the sideline but didn’t have his feet inbounds. He hasn’t always caught the ball cleanly either, but made progress there this spring. Will he emerge as Mauk’s favorite target this fall? Will Nate Brown, who missed 14 of 15 practices with a knee injury, recover and catch up in time to become that productive target in the slot? Lots of questions here. Not many answers unfolded this spring.

Mizzou Tigers pennant #DLineZou

Here's a nifty look in a how Mizzou Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski goes about instilling the techniques that churned out six 1st team all-conference defensive linemen and 10 NFL Draft picks, including three first-rounders since 2009. Almost all of them get a little screen time too.

Everyone is familiar with Terry Beckner Jr., the heralded DT recruit out of East St. Louis, but a different Jr. - Rickey Hatley Jr. (coincidentally a redshirt Jr.) has proved to be a promising backup and appears poised to have an impact this season. Harold Brantley is a lock to be a disruptive force from the 3 technique DT position, but with Hatley as his backup, Mizzou will have another large pass rusher who can flex out to a 5 technique if Barry Odom wants to shift his defensive schemes on the fly.

We know the names Charles Harris, Marcus Loud and Harold Brantley as well as incoming stud Terry Beckner Jr., but I think we'll hear Rickey Hatley's name this season as he contributes quality depth to "DLineZou".

Closing Out MU Spring Practice: Defensive Standouts - Columbia Daily Tribune | David Morrison

-- DT Rickey Hatley, Jr.:

So who's Rickey Hatley? Just the guy who quietly beat out Augusta for the first-team tackle spot beside Harold Brantley during spring drills. At 6-4, 285 pounds, Hatley gives Missouri a little more sleek look up front. And with his background repping at defensive end -- he actually played there more often than tackle last year -- he gives the Tigers another interior lineman with pass-rush acumen. Brantley's going to be Missouri's big-play guy on the inside, so anything it gets from the other spot is going to be a bonus. Hatley's put himself squarely in position to fill that role.