Missouri’s wide receiver depth has turned into a game of musical chairs.
After the dismissal of sophomore wideout Dimetrios Mason the past weekend for a violation of team rules, the Tigers are left with a handful of healthy receivers going into Saturday’s game against Kentucky in what has been a rough year for the position.
“Things happen and that’s why everyone has to be ready,” senior wide receiver J’Mon Moore said. “Next man up.”
Junior Emanuel Hall replaced Mason as the starter on Missouri’s depth chart, which opened up the door for more playing time for redshirt junior Nate Brown, who missed last season because of injury. Redshirt sophomore Justin Smith, a 6-foot-7 redzone threat, is week-to-week because of a knee injury.
Wide receivers coach Andy Hill isn’t concerned about his position’s depth because Missouri has mostly played its first- and second-string receivers this season, which makes Mason’s dismissal the first issue to significantly change playing time. Hill added that Brown is “more fully healthy than he’s ever been the last couple years.”
Missouri’s wide receiver depth started to suffer around National Signing Day when the Tigers lost Jafar Armstrong, a Bishop Miege grad and longtime verbal pledge, to Notre Dame, which came into his recruitment late. The Tigers also lost Elijah Gardiner, another verbal commit from Texas, to Ohio State the same week.
The Tigers got more bad news towards the start of fall camp when Hogan Prep star Da’Ron Davis failed to qualify academically. A week into fall camp, freshman O’Shae Clark, who was a late addition to the recruiting class, announced his intention to transfer. The move left Missouri with no freshmen receivers on scholarship. Davis plans to join the Tigers in January.
The Tigers are counting on Hall, who has shown flashes of being a solid playmaker, and Brown to emerge at a position that has lacked production four games into the season. Missouri, 1-3, is at Kentucky on Saturday.
“The team is looking for some playmakers to get us going and get us back on the map,” Brown said. “(Coach Hill) just said keep doing what you’re doing.”
Brown was Missouri’s leading receiver in 2015 with a team-best four touchdowns and 326 yards receiving as a sophomore before going down in fall camp last summer because of a left ankle injury. After needing surgery to fully repair the ankle, Brown separated his right shoulder in spring ball.
Aside from getting healthy, Brown also had to catch up with the playbook because he was unable to play in Josh Heupel’s offense last season. Brown said he hadn’t felt like himself until last week.
“Taking a lot more reps than I usually have with Dimetrios being out, I definitely felt like myself again,” he said.
Moore currently leads the team in receiving with 312 yards and three touchdowns.