With the start of fall camp just about a month away, PowerMizzou.com revs up our month-long preview of one of the most anticipated seasons in Tiger history. The last couple of years, Missouri has won the Big 12 North and has been in the running for much more significant prizes. With a new cast on hand, and so many productive players having moved on, winning the division for a third straight season will be no easy task.
But just what does the competition look like? That's the question we are set to answer in this series of previews. For the next two weeks, PowerMizzou.com will break down each position for each team in the North, the Tigers included. We will rank each unit on a scale from 1-10. At the end of the series, we will tally up the scores (6 points will be awarded for having the division's best position group, down to a single point for the worst group in the North) and use those scores to give you our prediction for the order of strength in the division.
Today, we look at the division's receivers. Teams are listed in the order of division finish from a year ago.
Last year's starters: Gone from last year are Jeremy Maclin, Tommy Saunders and Chase Coffman. All ranked in the top ten in Tiger history in receiving. You want a reason many have questions about the Tigers? As much as any, this is it.
This year's starters: Missouri will start two seniors. Jared Perry started last year and caught 41 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns. It's a great year for a third receiver, but Perry will have to do more this season. He will have Danario Alexander alongside him. Alexander's talent has never been questioned, but he simply has to stay on the field all season. The third wideout is likely to be sophomore Jerrell Jackson, who caught nine passes for 98 yards as a true freshman. Andrew Jones started when Coffman was injured last year at tight end and caught 20 balls for 146 yards. The Tigers have talent, but they have a huge void to replace.
Position Rating (1-10): 6: Alexander has No. 1 receiver written all over him. He may not be Maclin, but who is? Perry has been a productive receiver and Jones, Jackson and Egnew all showed flashes. Bottom line, the Tigers aren't going to be as good here as they were the year before. But that's hardly an insult. Mizzou has five receivers from its last two teams currently on an NFL roster.
Last year's starters: Much like at quarterback, the Huskers mirror Missouri here in many ways. Todd Petersen and Nate Swift 125 balls for more than 1700 yards last season. Neither is back.
This year's starters: The leading returning receiver is actually tight end Mike McNeill, who grabbed 32 passes last season. At wideout, the top returner is Menelik Holt, who caught 30 passes, but did not have a standout spring. Niles Paul, who had 23 catches for 214 yards, may be the top target.
Position Rating (1-10): 4.5: McNeill is good. Beyond that, there are more questions than answers until fall rolls around.
Last year's starters: Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier combined for 195 grabs totalling 2,452 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
This year's starters: Read above. The Jayhawks are the best in the league. They might be the best in America.
The Rest of the Depth Chart: Jonathan Wilson caught 43 passes for 573 yards last season and will start. Raimond Pendleton is currently listed as the other starter in a four-wide attack. The Hawks' fourth receiver is up in the air. But the first three are so good, it may not matter.
Position Rating (1-10): 10: Missouri fans will hate to hear it, but if you can find a better receiving corps in America (that has a big-time talent at quarterback entering his third year as a starter), it would be surprising.
Kansas State Wildcats
Last year's starters: Despite being the smallest player in the league, Brandon Banks put up 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns last year. He was joined by Deon Murphy (37, 555, 6), Aubrey Quarles (34, 407, 1) and Jeron Mastrud (38, 435, 2) in a receiving corps that was a bright spot in a bad year.
This year's starters: Murphy is gone, but the others are all back and should help Carson Coffman in his transition to the starting quarterback role.
The Rest of the Depth Chart: The Cats don't have much in the way of depth, but bringing back three top receivers from a season ago is worth quite a bit. Now, the line just has to give Coffman time to find them.
Position Rating (1-10): 4.5: The Cats have solid talent returning at receiver. If Coffman is good and they get some help from the running game, the receivers could make the offense much improved.
Last year's starter: Leading receiver Scotty McKnight is gone with his 46 grabs, 519 yards and 5 TDs. Josh Smith started beside him and caught 29 balls for 387 yards. Patrick Williams and his 30 grabs are gone too.
This year's starter: Smith is back, but no other wideout had more than five catches last season. Tight end Riar Geer looks the part, but caught just 13 passes for 183 yards last season. His backup Patrick Devenny had 14 catches. You want a reason Colorado hasn't returned to the glory of its past? The Buffs need someone, anyone, to step up and catch the football and make plays.
The Rest of the Depth Chart: The starters are unproven. The guys behind them are even more so. For Colorado to make noise, they need playmakers to emerge in a hurry.
Position Rating (1-10): 2.5: The Buffs just don't have a difference maker here. Nearly everyone in the Big 12 does. If they want to compete for a top-half finish, Colorado has to move the ball through the air.
Iowa State Cyclones
Last year's starter: R.J. Sumrall and Darius Darks combined for 106 catches last season for an ISU offense that has more talent than most know about. Tight end Derrick Catlett was solid with 20 grabs.
This year's starter: All three are back, along with the quarterback, and could give the Clones a much improved passing attack in 2009.
The Rest of the Depth Chart: Houston Jones made the transition from quarterback nicely and caught 32 passes for 384 yards last year. Sedrick Johnson is ultra-talented and could make a name for himself after catching 18 passes as a freshman.
Position Rating (1-10): 5.5: There is not a top-shelf star on the list yet, but the Cyclones have as many proven receivers as any team in the league besides Kansas.
Order by Position Rating (Points in Parentheses)
Kansas (6) Missouri (5) Iowa State (4) Kansas State (2.5) Nebraska (2.5) Colorado (1)
Over the next month, leading up to the start of fall camp, PowerMizzou.com will preview the Tigers at every position on the field and examine a number of the questions facing one of the most intriguing seasons in the 120-year history of the Missouri program. To get yourself ready for the 2009 campaign, try out our free seven-day trial.