Missouri lost its top three receivers after the ’13 and ’14 seasons.

The Tigers booted an additional two off the team, not counting Dorial Green-Beckham.

Marcus Murphy, a solid safety valve for Maty Mauk in 2014, also is gone.

Nate Brown, the favorite to be this year’s breakout receiver, sprained his MCL. Sean Culkin, who caught 20 passes as the team’s starting tight end last year, separated his shoulder. Walk-on Eric Laurent is working with the first-team offense.

So what does the quarterback think of his targets at a critical juncture of his playing career?

“The athletic ability these young guys have is something Mizzou might not have ever had before,” Mauk said, according to the Columbia Tribune.

Those are pretty strong words, considering the ’13 team when he took over as starter for an injured James Franklin included DGB, Marcus Lucas, L’Damian Washington and Bud Sasser.

Perhaps his renewed bravado stems from the fact that he’s much healthier than he was at the end of the 2014 season, getting past a shoulder sprain that he played through. Mauk also has dropped from 20 to 11 percent body fat, focusing on eating well.

It’s no wonder he’s projecting so much confidence. Remember, this is the player who compared himself to Johnny Manziel at SEC Media Days last year, having never entered a college football season as a starting quarterback.


That confidence seems to be cultivating some high standards. Apparently it’s not enough for this receiving corps to develop an adequate passing game.


If Mizzou is going to improve in that area, it’s going to be in part because of improvement from Mauk.



Regardless of what the signal-caller says, Missouri has a ton of work to do to be prepared for the season at receiver. Spin it how you like, but ideally, Brown would take every rep possible with the first-team offense this spring. He caught five passes as a freshman and hasn’t gotten a substantial amount of on-field work with Mauk.

If he’s able to participate in at least a portion of the team’s final nine practices after the team returns from spring break March 31, it will help. Meantime, the team needs to develop guys like Moore and Blair while mining the rest of the roster for depth, whether that’s Laurent or someone else.

Moore is working on “coming out of my breaks, keeping my hips low, more body control when I’m running my routes. And just looking the ball in. I have a tendency to not look the ball in,” he told the Columbia Tribune. “I trust my hands. I have a tendency to just see where the ball’s coming, put my hands up and not really look. See where my defenders are coming from.”

It’s good that Mauk is taking his offseason fitness seriously, and even better that his shoulder is healthy. It’s hard to speculate on how much it affected his 2014, but it’s possible the discomfort he experienced in the joint was a big part of his mid-season struggles.

If Mauk improves his completion percentage by even five percent, it would help offset a potential deficit brought on by the loss of experience and talent among the team’s pass-catchers.

There are some indications that the Tigers may rely on the running game more, at least relative to the team’s usual offensive system. But if Mauk and the offense also can harness the bragged-about athleticism in the passing game, there’s a very good chance the team will exceed its output of 27.8 points per game last year.