A year ago, Missouri sophomore wide receiver Dimetrios Mason was still working at cornerback during his first college football training camp.
When the Tigers’ coaches approached him about switching to receiver, Mason (6-0, 185), a two-way star at Grayson High from Loganville, Ga., was hardly enthusiastic.
“I loved corner last year and actually it took me a while to buy into being a receiver,” he said.
In fact, Mason isn’t sure he ever completely developed a “wide receiver mindset” last season despite startling success. He finished second on the team in catches (47) and receiving yards (587) and tied for second in touchdown receptions (three).
Mason is also not complaining as he finds himself entrenched atop the receiver depth chart two weeks into his second training camp.
“It seems like it was just yesterday, but it was really long ago at the same time now that I think about it,” Mason said. “They made a great call (switching me to receiver). Now, I look back at it and don’t feel like I would be able to play corner for that long and hit people that much. I’d rather score and run past people.”
Here’s a scary prospect for opposing defenders: Now that he’s dedicated to the position, Mason’s expectations for 2017 have spiked.
“His ceiling is still really high on what he can do in this offense,” second-year coach Barry Odom said. “His ability to run the routes and the timing looks a lot better right now than at any point last year. From last year on this day to today, I would say he looks like a completely different player to me — in a good way.”
Mason also is working to become a technician at the position.
“He was an athlete playing wide receiver last year,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “He is now a wide receiver playing wide receiver. His ability to get off press coverage, understanding of how to use his hands down the field to get a corner’s hands off him, how to secure the ball, how to attack the football on in-breaking routes — he’s come a long ways.”
There’s still a long way to go before Mason reaches his potential.
“I was very surprised by what I did,” Mason said of last season’s performance, “but at the same time I knew I could do better. As I go back and watch my freshman year, this year I’ve been dialed in more and focused on the offense and the coaches and understanding (junior quarterback) Drew (Lock) and being on the same page with him. I think I'll have a better year than I did last year.”
He’s caught Lock’s attention, especially after seeing the Mason’s dedication working with senior J’Mon Moore and the rest of the receiving group during the summer months.
“He’s worked really hard on becoming more of a true wide receiver, rather than just a guy who is fast and could run down field,” Lock said. “He’s worked on his depth on routes, he’s worked on coming out of breaks and really for him I’ve seen his ability to adjust to the ball in the air become huge for him. He's come a long, long way.”
That’s not true strictly on the field either. Mason’s demeanor has changed in position group meetings and in the locker room.
“He’s grown up too as a person,” Moore said. “He understands the offense much better and is asking more mature questions. He’s more mature in the meeting room and has just grown up quickly. It’s helping him get better on the field and make better decisions.”