Missouri desperately needs wide receivers, so it’s no surprise that the Tigers are expected to sign six wide receivers today on national signing day.
MU loses all three starters from 2014 — Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White — and returns only three players with college experience.
No wonder Missouri stockpiled talent at the position with oral commitments from Richaud Floyd from Gulfport, Miss.; Emanuel Hall from Centennial High in Franklin, Tenn.; Johnathon Johnson from Melrose High in Memphis; Brandon Martin from now-defunct Prime Prep Academy in Dallas; Ronnell Perkins from University City, Mo.; and Justin Smith from West Laurens High in Dublin, Ga.
“You look at all of them on film, and our scouts just love this group,” ESPN senior writer Jeremy Crabtree said. “The one thing that they all of them have in common is they have a great football IQ. That’s kind of a hallmark of Gary Pinkel’s recruits over the years.”
Each is a three-star prospect, according to Rivals, while ESPN gives Floyd and Martin a four-star rating and 247 Sports gave Smith a four-star grade.
Nonetheless, it might be a stretch to assume any of them will contribute right away.
“It would be unfair to rule out anybody, but I don’t know if you can expect anybody to step on the field and play right away…” Crabtree said. “It’s such a lofty expectation for somebody to come in and to play right away in the SEC.”
There’s no doubt Missouri could use the help. The Tigers are losing 80.5 percent of last season’s receptions, 86.4 percent of receiving yards and 96 percent of receiving touchdowns.
Rising sophomores Nate Brown and J’Mon Moore and rising senior Wesley Leftwich, who combined for 10 receptions and 114 yards with no touchdowns last season, are the only returning receivers.
The Tigers were in a similar position entering 2014 after L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas graduated and Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team, but there’s even less experience and production this time.
Solutions for next season are more likely to come from the 2014 signing class, which included Brown and three redshirt freshman receivers — DeSean Blair, Thomas Richard and Keyon Dilosa, who was sidelined by a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last season.
“You would have to think they have a better chance to contribute, because they’ve been around the program and know the system,” Crabtree said. “They’ve been in weight training and know what the rigors of college football are.”
For 2014, Missouri also signed the brother of former MU receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, Darnell Green-Beckham, who never made it to campus. And the Tigers signed Lawrence Lee, who was booted from the team in November amid theft allegations.
Like Brown, Lee played a lot before his dismissal, and it’s a good bet one or two of next season’s true freshmen also will be pressed into action.
Martin might have the best chance, but Prime Prep lost its charter last month, so his eligibility is a question mark.
“If he does make it and ends up in Columbia, he has the talent to be an immediate impact guy,” Crabtree said. “Brandon Martin’s a special talent.”
ESPN actually ranks Martin (No. 101) slightly ahead of Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock (No. 107), who has also committed to Missouri.
Smith is a 6-foot-7 potential red-zone nightmare who made 65 catches for 1,038 yards with 13 touchdowns last season.
Floyd played quarterback as a senior, but he caught 80 passes for 1,007 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior.
Johnson is a speedster, whose return ability might earn him a long look, with MU also in search of Marcus Murphy’s replacement for kickoff and punt returns.
Hall led Centennial with 55 catches for 991 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Perkins caught 27 passes for 581 yards with seven scores and averaged 36.2 yards per kickoff return.
“There’s always an exception to the rule, but it’s rare that you see guys step on the field and immediately do something,” Crabtree said. “It just doesn’t happen, especially at a place like Missouri.”
It may have to in 2015.