One thing Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk won't do is pretend that he has the same sort of talent at wide receiver the Tigers have enjoyed the last couple of years. There aren't tall, rangy, field-shredding threats like L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Dorial Green-Beckham to play with, and there certainly isn't reliable experience that Mauk had in Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser from last year.
But Mauk, who will be a redshirt junior this fall, isn't sweating it. What he lost in height and experience around him, he believes he gained in athleticism and depth. While the Tigers don't have much experience at all to lean on at receiver (Nate Brown's five receptions from last year lead all returning wide receivers), Mauk is excited about the potential this much younger group possesses and has had a lot of fun chucking the ball around to them this spring.
“The main thing with these guys is that they’re not what we’ve had in the past … but they’re just athletic," Mauk said. "They are extremely athletic. They’re guys who can go out there and catch screens and go, get down field and beat people, make people miss, go up and make catches.”
We'll all have to wait and see these kids' true potential, but Mauk sounds pretty convincing when he talks about the confidence he has in his receivers. Even though coach Gary Pinkel didn't sound too enthused about his receivers after Saturday's scrimmage -- going so far as to move third-string cornerback Raymond Wingo to slot receiver -- Mauk seems a bit more optimistic. For now, we just have to take his word for it, but Mauk does tease to some fun attributes from the young guys.
In sophomore J'Mon Moore, who caught two passes for 33 yards last season, Mauk sees a versatile playmaker who can "run by you and make you miss." To Mauk, Moore is kind of a Jack-of-all-trades in Missouri's offense.
“There’s so much stuff he can do out on the field," Mauk said of Moore. "You can line him up at different places.”
He also has 6-foot-3, 190-pound redshirt freshman DeSean Blair, who Mauk said reminds him of Washington in how he plays and stretches the field with his speed and big strides. There's also senior Wesley Leftwich, who caught three passes for 36 yards last year, who has been impressing him at the Z spot with his size, speed and strength.
He's also intrigued by former quarterback Eric Laurent, who has made strides because of his knowledge of just what his quarterback wants. Of course he does, he played the position, so he and Mauk have that sort of connection.
“He knows what a quarterback is looking for out there and he’s gonna get in that spot," Mauk said. "He’s a guy I gotta look for out there.”
We don't know what to truly expect from this group, and there's still a ways to go for a unit that has very little on-field experience, but Mauk seems excited. And that's a good thing for Mizzou fans. These guys have to develop and grow, but Mauk is ready to lead them every step of the way.