Missouri’s new receiving corps working hard, not worrying about teammates who have left

08/25/2014 10:09 PM

08/26/2014 12:53 AM

Many Missouri fans are concerned about the lack of returning production at wide receiver.

Statistically, those fears seem warranted.

The 24th-ranked Tigers, who open the season at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium, return less than 26 percent of their receptions, barely 22 percent of their receiving yards and only four of 31 receiving touchdowns.

Even those figures include throws to running backs Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough, so the numbers are grisly, though not entirely uncommon in the high-turnover world of college football.

Just don’t expect Missouri’s returning receivers — led by senior starters Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White — to seek motivation in replacing or trying to measure up to Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington, who are now in NFL camps, or Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the team in April.

If the Tigers’ new receiving corps has heard the worrisome chatter about relative inexperience or a lack of proven production, it hasn’t produced any anger.

“Honestly, we don’t talk about it in our meeting room, so if the chip’s on their shoulder, it’s outside of this building,” said Pat Washington, Missouri’s wide-receivers coach. “Inside of this building, it’s just work as usual. We understand the things we’ve got to do to be a championship football team. Not one time, not once, have we discussed anything about the people we’ve lost or what people think about us as a group.”

Instead, there’s a quiet confidence about Missouri’s receivers.

“People will say what they want to say and have their own opinion, but we all know we’ve put forth the work this summer, and we know we’ve mastered our fundamentals so far,” Hunt said. “We’re ready to go out and execute against other teams.”

Count Tigers sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk among those decidedly unconcerned about how his receivers will perform during the 2014 season.

“I love them,” Mauk said. “There’s nobody I’d trade them for. I know Darius, Jimmie, Bud — we put in a lot of extra time during this last year getting things down, and I know they’re going to be ready to go. … We have guys that can play football.”

Entering the season, that group also contains two true freshmen, Lawrence Lee in the slot and Nate Brown on the outside.

Lee worked with the first-team offense during the last week of camp after Hunt (hamstring) and senior Gavin Otte (ankle sprain) were injured. Both are expected to play against the Jackrabbits, but the opportunity helped cement Lee’s place on the roster.

Hunt wasn’t surprised the duo made the depth chart.

“Consistency and consistency of making big plays,” Hunt said. “They grasp the concepts of what we were trying to do when we were out there running plays. We know they can do some great things this year. They’re going to score a touchdown or two. It’s only a matter of time.”

Three other true freshmen made the depth chart for the Tigers’ season opener, including tailback Ish Witter, a jitterbug type of running back from Alonso High School in Tampa, Fla.

“He had a good camp, and we’re excited about him,” Pinkel said.

Cornerback Logan Cheadle, a Lee’s Summit West graduate who enrolled for the spring semester and took part in spring camp, is listed behind sophomore John Gibson and junior David Johnson.

“He’s a third corner but will certainly play,” Pinkel said.

Finally, safety Thomas Wilson from Buford High School in Suwanee, Ga., stuck on the roster as the backup nickelback behind senior strong safety Duron Singleton.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @todpalmer.

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