1. It's time, young bucks
WR DeSean Blair, 6-3/190, RFr.: Missouri’s receiving corps is in need of a major rebuilding job with the losses it suffered from last season. That’s a well-known story line by now. Out of the group of redshirt freshman receivers who the Tigers need to step up this season, Blair seemed to get the most consideration during spring drills. He exited the Black & Gold Game neck-and-neck with sophomore J’Mon Moore for a starting spot and should get every opportunity to continue competing for it over 19 fall practices. Even if Moore, Wesley Leftwich and Nate Brown lock Blair out of a starting spot, he could still be a valuable fourth receiver for the Tigers, a role they sorely missed last season after Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt shared it in 2013. Blair’s got a tall, lanky frame that’s reminiscent of L’Damian Washington and — while he doesn’t have Washington’s speed — he could make up for it with his ball skills in the air. Working on routes and hands will be key for him during fall ball.
He Said It: "My speed increased, strength increased. Really just knowing the game, learning the game. Recognizing coverages, stuff like that. Remembering all the plays definitely improved a lot." — Blair.
David Morrison's "gotta step up" list is just about right. In my mind, Mizzou needs Terry Beckner, a redshirt freshman receiver, and a redshirt freshman defensive end (at this point, most likely Walter Brady) to be ready to play at a starter level if the Tigers want to play well enough to compete for a third SEC East title. That's a lot to ask, honestly, but it's not impossible.
As I'm sure I'll mention in this year's Walkthroughs (starting soon!), Blair is the most intriguing of the RSFr receivers to me. I obviously didn't see a ton of him in the spring, but from what I saw, I was impressed with his combination of athleticism, go-get-it ball skills, and reasonably polished routes. He seems like the most well-rounded of the group ... at least until I recall his abysmal spring scrimmage stats (26 targets, 7 catches, 60 yards, 4 INT). Caveats apply to those -- other eventually great plays had iffy spring moments at some point, a lot of that could have come from third-string QBs against the first-string D, etc. -- but the numbers give me pause, at least. We'll see.
2. Steve Walentik wrote about Mizzou's Lakers
A year later, Clarkson and Brown both seem to be two of the rare players who beat the odds. The two guards — who will be in St. Louis this week to take part in the Midwest Elite Backcourt Skills Academy, a three-day camp organized by former MU associate head coach Tim Fuller at Harris-Stowe State University — finished last season getting regular minutes in the backcourt of the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers and have positioned themselves to stick with the team again in the year ahead.
It wasn’t always easy, as both players discussed in phone interviews earlier this week.
"It was a process for me from the beginning of the year to the end," Clarkson said.
"It was a journey," Brown said, "a lot of ups and downs."
Every time I think about these two now, I think of Sam's Tim Fuller piece.
And we didn’t really talk about it publicly, but we had two kids whose parents were dealing with terminal illnesses. One was in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the other was bedridden in his home in Oakland. We, literally, were just trying to keep those two young men from emotionally falling apart. And they’re giving their heart and soul to Missouri basketball and they’re on the verge of losing the most important male figures in their lives. It was a challenging moment for us all.
Not going to the NCAA tournament wasn’t as big of a deal to me that year because when I learned that they had gotten all the cancer out of, or the tumor out of the spine of Jordan Clarkson’s father [it was of far greater significance].
3. Rockhurst's A.J. Taylor committed to Wisconsin yesterday as expected
Didn't expect him to use Monopoly as a commitment device, though.
AJ Taylor now going around the Monopoly board, asking for people to speak on each school. KU and Mizzou get houses, Iowa does not.— Randy Withers (@RandyWithersKC) August 1, 2015
AJ Taylor draws a Chance card "Advance to the college of your choosing"— Randy Withers (@RandyWithersKC) August 1, 2015
4.Georgia LB Donta Evans II will be committing later today.
Evans is a mid-three-star linebacker, and I guess Mizzou's still an option despite the commitment of Tobias Little earlier this week, but it's pretty clear who the experts think will land him.