COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri has had a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the past three seasons. Jeremy Maclin -- a redshirt freshman coming back from a serious knee injury the previous season -- did it in 2007 and 2008, parlaying his efforts into a first-round selection in the 2009 NFL draft.
Last year, Danario Alexander, who previously topped out at 417 yards in a season, made good on his potential and blew away Maclin’s production with over 1,700 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns, almost 300 yards more than any other receiver in college football. Only four receivers surpassed 1,000 yards last season, and Alexander did it after undergoing two knee surgeries before his junior season and another before his final year.
No serious knee injuries have forced this year’s crop of receivers out of spring practice, but there is certainly talent waiting to take hold of new opportunities.
“Somebody always steps up, and before the season, it always seems like, ‘Who’s next?’ We’ll always come up with a guy,” said receiver Wes Kemp. “Somebody will always step up.”
“I just know our offense needs playmakers this year,” Jackson said. “Knowing I get to take this role is a big privilege to me.”
Less-experienced sophomore Rolandis Woodland is rumored to have Maclinesque speed, but he has just five career catches and no scores. This spring, sophomore T.J. Moe (Kemp insisted it be said that “T.J.” is short for Taylor Jacob) has emerged as a possible contributor as well, leading the team in receptions during spring scrimmages and grabbing 12 passes in Saturday’s spring game.
“He was a QB in high school, but now his hands look like some of the best out there and he runs really good, crisp routes,” Kemp said of Moe. “Being a quarterback really helps his understanding of the game, and I think he’s seen the most improvement out of all of us.”
Tight end Michael Egnew could also help carry on the recent Missouri tradition of outstanding play at the position, following NFL draft picks Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman.
Whoever emerges will do so because of those increased opportunities. Missouri threw the ball 467 times last season, a drop from four consecutive seasons in the top three in the conference in pass attempts.
Though Missouri has a solid set of running backs, that number could balloon back over 500 next season.
“Coming here gives you a lot of opportunity. We play in a spread offense and the ball goes multiple ways,” Jackson said.
Players like Alexander and Maclin proved they should get it more.
So, who’s next?