COLUMBIA — When you combine his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame with his sub-4.4 speed, it’s little wonder why sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was named the No. 1 recruit in the country in the Class of 2012.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has repeatedly mentioned the need to get Green-Beckham more involved on offense this season, but that might not be the only place he will contribute, as he lined up with the first team punt-return unit as an edge rusher during practice Wednesday morning.
“If we decide to put him there, we’ve got a guy with remarkable speed and he’s 6-6 and (with) his wingspan and his reach, he can probably get a foot or two closer (to the punter) than a guy who is 6-foot or 6-1,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel said he also got a look at Green-Beckham as a kick returner Wednesday and was impressed, though he’s admittedly wary of putting someone his size back there.
“He returned one in practice and I’m looking at him going ‘Wow, that looked good,’” Pinkel said. “But on the other hand he’s a big target and there’s a lot of him to hit. I’ve never seen anybody catch him, ever, but we’re gonna have to talk that out a little bit, decide what he’s going to do.”
Pinkel was then asked if Green-Beckham has demonstrated an ability to catch the ball as a returner, which is never a given with receivers.
“Oh yeah, he can do that,” Pinkel said. “He could return punts, probably. He could do any of that stuff.”
Pinkel said it could be a situation like the one he had with former Missouri star Jeremy Maclin, who returned kicks fulltime his freshman year but had his duties scaled back a tad as a sophomore.
“J-Mac returned kickoffs his first year here...and his next year I asked him about it and he said ‘Coach, I want to do it but if the game is out of reach, pull me out, or if it’s a big game, yeah, (put me in),’” Pinkel said. “I just worked through the whole season with him.”
Pinkel, however, later stressed that while it may be tempting to take advantage of Green-Beckham’s return abilities, the presence of all-SEC returner Marcus Murphy will likely eliminate the need to use him in that capacity.
“You know, Marcus Murphy is pretty good,” Pinkel said of Murphy, who took a school-record four kicks back for scores last season. “And we’ve got some other guys that are pretty good, too. So just caution there, I would not look for that to happen. But certainly we’ve got to get the ball to him in many other ways.”
Green-Beckham caught 28 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns last season. He is expected to start on the outside at the “X” receiver position this year, and Pinkel is expecting big things from the Springfield native.
“I just think he’s more mature, which happens to every player who goes from (his) freshman to sophomore year,” Pinkel said. “There was a bulls-eye on him last year, anything he did. I think it will always be with him a little bit but I think now he’s learned how to deal with a little bit, deal with all the media, deal with all the attention anywhere he goes.
“He’s really gotten a lot better and he’s a lot better football player than he was a year ago at this time. We have very, very high expectations for him.”