When it comes to the Missouri Tigers offense, all we’ve heard this offseason is this:
“How will the Tigers replace Dorial Green-Beckham in 2014?”
It seems to be the most popular pessimistic question Mizzou fans and media have tossed around– and they’ve used it exhaustively.
At first, when the star receiver was dismissed by the University, it was a valid “freak out” question. Who’s going to fill the shoes of one of the best pass catchers and speediest players we’ve seen in black and gold in years?
And then, one of the potential answers, sophomore wide receiver Levi Copelin, was suspended for the entire season.
Collective hyperventilating ensued.
What in the world is this offense going to do?
Everyone take a deep breath. The Mizzou offense is going to be just fine– thanks in part to the fact that the guys who are being called on to “replace”– do we really have to use that word?– Dorial Green-Beckham are showing sure signs of life in the receiving core. And it’s something to be excited about for Tiger fans.
Seniors Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt are expected to lead the team. Sasser was extremely reliable last season and is one of the most consistent players on the team. With his catching and scoring in 2013, even as the fourth or fifth option for the Tigers to throw to, shows that he has what it takes to lead the team. He’s impressed everyone so far during the preseason.
Hunt has battled with a minor injury that has limited his practice time. But in his 2013 appearances also gave us a clue to the type of receiver he’s capable of being. Senior Darious White is more of an enigma– but a likely starter. Coaches have liked what they’ve seen so far from him as well.
A big question mark will be at tight end. The expected starter- Sean Culkin- is a sophomore with only one catch on his stat sheet. But if it’s any consolation, it was the only pass thrown to him, so he starts with a 1.00. The Tigers have sparingly used Tight Ends as pass catchers as of late. Culkin will likely be used in a blocking role.
Players that we absolutely must keep an eye on, and who are expected to make a big impact from the get-go are freshmen Desean Blair and Lawrence Lee. Expect either one of these, especially Blair, to play a monumental role in the offense in 2014.
Blair has potential to be a breakout player, even in his youth, this season; and Lee has made such great strides in practice that he’s left a big impression not only on the coaches but on fellow teammates as well. Freshman Nate Brown also appears to have a role on the squad as well. All of whom have potential to be prolific receivers in the future.
Blair caught 52 catches for 785 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Fellow Florida native Lee had 51 catches for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year at West Florida Tech High School in Pensacola. These names are likely to be heard often this fall.
In addition to these receivers, the Tigers have a completely rounded offense.
Quarterback Maty Mauk proved himself in 2013 during four games of fill-in time, showing that he has both the skill and the leadership to make plays and win games.
The seasoned offensive line is expected to excel this season; and the backfield is perhaps one of the strongest the SEC has to offer. A part of that back field is the Swiss Army knife, Marcus Murphy, who is expected to make a huge impact on the passing game itself by making appearances in the slot.
These elements right off the bat take pressure off the young pass catchers. Anyone who knows football will tell you that a strong offensive line and running game will make your passing game exponentially better. Add Mauk into the mix, and you have an offense that can be both flexible and potent in 2014.
Many experts, myself included, believe the biggest question on this team is consistency. The offense has struggled with mental errors during the preseason practices. But that’s the purpose of practice, to try and keep those at bay. If they can, the Tigers may have every bit as much success on that side of the ball as they did in 2013.
So how is this offense truly going to fare? Will they be good enough to compete for an SEC East division title in 2014? Remains to be seen– maybe, maybe not. But will it be an absolute catastrophe? Does the Tigers offense have tickets on the Titanic?
Absolutely not. This is a talented young team with a lot to look forward to in 2014 and years to come.
Everyone smile, the Tigers have talent.