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Maclin emerging as dangerous Big 12 skill threat

8/14/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After a couple of early inspections of NCAA Football 09, Jeremy Maclin isn't sure that game developers completely captured him in their computer simulation.

"I think they did a pretty good job, but they could have had me a little faster," Maclin said.

The do-everything Missouri wide receiver/kick returner might have a point. Maclin was one of the most electrifying players in the nation last season as a redshirt freshman, leading the Tigers to their first Big 12 North Division title. In the process he piled up an NCAA freshman record 2,776 all-purpose yards as he earned first-team All-American honors.

And he's back for even more this season, suggesting to Missouri coaches how he'd like to be featured in the Tigers' offense.

"He's come up to me talking about different ways and different plays where we could use him," Missouri quarterbacks coach David Yost said. "He's become more of a student of the game. He's maturing."

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel suggests that Maclin's development could allow his high-powered offense to evolve even more this season.

"Jeremy is so good with a football in his hands that we hand the football to him like a running back, seven, eight, nine times a game," Pinkel said. "Two years ago, we never did that at all. But our personnel dictate that."

After missing his freshman season with a knee injury, Maclin started with a flourish from his first game. He came off the bench to account for 227 all-purpose yards to help spark the Tigers' 40-34 victory over Illinois. Included was a dazzling 66-yard punt return, a 25-yard touchdown reception and a 29-yard reverse that convinced Pinkel he had a special player.

"When we were driving back from St. Louis," Pinkel said, "I told my wife, 'Honey, we've got a superstar.' You don't come in your first college game, on national television, in your hometown, against a big rival and do what he did.

"When you're able to do that, it tells everyone that there's something in you that other people just don't have."

Maclin proved his coach's point throughout the season, leading the Tigers with 80 receptions, 1,055 yards and nine TD grabs. He finished with 16 touchdowns and was the nation's only player to produce a rushing touchdown, a touchdown reception, a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a score last season.

Even after that auspicious start, Maclin is convinced there's a lot more to be shown with his increasing maturity.

"I'm bigger and faster than I was last season," Maclin said. "And I've come back with a different attitude, too. In the mental part of the game, I'm not getting down on myself if I drop a ball. But with the physical part, I don't want to drop it in the first place. I want to keep getting better."