Mizzou's biggest loss on offense: Dorial Green-Beckham
What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
Who makes better barbecue, Kansas, Memphis or the Carolinas?
Picking Missouri’s biggest loss on offense is a no-lose proposition with plenty of good choices.
There’s the glass half full approach: Hey, we’re the best at developing talent in the country. Sure, we lost some receivers. Who cares? Those guys were overrated anyway.
Then there’s the pessimistic outlook: We lost five of our seven most important players, and that’s being generous to Evan Boehm and Maty Mauk. We need all the luck we can get to win eight or nine games.
We’ll find out soon how much the losses will hurt the Tigers. For now, let’s determine which of the losses is most significant.
QB James Franklin: He missed significant time in each of his last two seasons, so sometimes we forget, but Franklin accounted for 36 touchdowns in 2011, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards. Last year he threw 19 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions and was a far more accurate, consistent quarterback than freshman sensation Maty Mauk. When he was on the field, he gave the team a certifiable dual threat that opponents had to respect. He also had a great understanding of his receivers and their individual strengths.
RB Henry Josey: His story got lost in the team’s overall success. Josey rushed for nearly 1,200 yards on a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry in 2011, then suffered a serious knee injury at the end of the season and missed all of 2012 as well. Josey returned in 2013 to finish two yards shy of his 2011 rushing total, but scored 17 touchdowns. (For reference, Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas combined for 25 scores.) Some credit must go to Missouri’s road-grading offensive line, balanced attack and late-game leads. But Josey is underrated as a loss for the Tigers.
LT Justin Britt: The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks drafted Britt in the second round. The first-team All-SEC performer clearly was the best piece of a productive offensive line for Missouri in 2013.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham: The NCAA announced last week that it will not allow Green-Beckham to play for Oklahoma during the 2014 season, preventing an emotional gut punch for Tigers fans, particularly if Oklahoma wins the Big 12. At 6-foot-6, Green-Beckham represented a matchup nightmare since the day he arrived in Columbia as Rivals.com’s No. 1 recruit of the 2012 class. His 2013 totals, nearly 900 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, are notable even though Green-Beckham still hasn’t reached his potential to date. But due to ongoing legal issues, coach Gary Pinkel decided to sever ties with the receiver. It was the right move, though it stings in an on-field vacuum.
WR L’Damian Washington: Washington, “only” 6-foot-4, ran a reported 4.39-second 40-yard dash at Missouri’s pro day. He added 10 touchdowns, edged Green-Beckham by 10 yards for the team lead in receiving yards and also averaged a team-best 17.9 yards per catch.
WR Marcus Lucas: How many teams have a 6-foot-4+, 220-pound slot receiver? Lucas caught 58 passes, just shy of the team lead. Although his yards per catch, touchdown rate and general physical ability aren’t equal to Green-Beckham and Washington, Lucas provided a steady presence in the middle of the field for a team with virtually no passing game production from its tight ends.
PROCESS OF ELIMINATION
- James Franklin’s Missouri career should be applauded. It’s not clear-cut, but I do think 2013 Franklin was better than 2013 Maty Mauk. Mauk still has a lot to prove as a full-time starter with fewer weapons and an offseason for defensive coordinators to study him. But it’s possible 2014 Mauk could be as good as (or even better than) 2013 Franklin. It’s tough to label Franklin as the team’s biggest loss for that reason.
- Henry Josey, you’re next on the chopping block. In my opinion, you were the most fun to watch. But Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy combined to run for more yards than you in 2013, and they return this year. Mauk will get his share of rushing yards as well, and this offensive line is built to run-block. In other words, you’re good, but you’re replaceable.
- Lucas will be the easiest to replace of the three receivers. Jimmie Hunt is recovering from a hamstring injury, but he and Murphy should be fine as options in the slot. Also, Missouri could — and should — involve its tight ends more this season, mitigating the loss of Lucas.
- The offensive and defensive lines probably qualify as the areas of least concern entering the season. Mitch Morse must flip from right to left tackle, but he’s a redshirt senior and team captain. The Tigers should do fine in pass protection and excel in run-blocking. So Britt can’t be it.
Dorial Green-Beckham. Sure, Missouri has several senior receivers and a few young, talented ones. The system is proven. But look at Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last season. There’s a point at which the loss of talent makes it tough to sustain a level of production. Green-Beckham stings harder than the others because, if not for his behavioral decisions, he’d be a huge security in Maty Mauk’s first season as a starter.
During the first fall scrimmage, Mauk tossed a deep ball to Darius White (6-foot-3) in a 1-on-1 situation with junior college transfer and backup cornerback Kenya Dennis (6-foot) in coverage. Dennis not only prevented a completion, but intercepted the pass. Mauk, who completed 51 percent of his passes last season and relied on big plays a little more than Pinkel would like, didn’t have the greatest fall camp based on the scrimmages and needs to work on his accuracy. Having Green-Beckham on the roster would have prevented plays like the one Dennis made while defending White.
It would’ve given Mauk a clear-cut No. 1 target in the red zone and taken some pressure off the rest of the receivers and tight ends. Washington is a significant loss as well, but his spot on an NFL roster seems tenuous at best entering 2014. Green-Beckham, if he can prove the character issues shouldn’t tank his draft stock, should in the least get drafted and last beyond training camp. He’s the most physically talented of the players Missouri lost, and the one with the most potential, even if it’s arguable whether he was the most important in 2013.
Mauk is trying to lead an offense while replacing the left tackle, the starting running back and the top three receivers. Having Green-Beckham spend at least one final season in Columbia would’ve bumped Missouri up a good three to five spots in the AP poll and given some teeth to the offense.
BEST OF THE REPLACEMENTS
Russell Hansbrough. Admittedly, this team’s aforementioned run blocking is a big factor. So, too, is the fact that Murphy theoretically will be forfeiting some of his carries in favor of running routes, or at least accepting a harder ceiling on his backfield workload, given his receiving duties. And Morgan Steward (hip) is doubtful for the South Dakota State game. With a walk-on and two true freshmen behind Murphy and Steward, Hansbrough potentially could command a higher percentage of the carries than Josey did a season ago.
It’s difficult to imagine any of the receivers becoming a 60+ catch guy in 2014. Mauk has potential to become an All-SEC performer at quarterback, but he still needs to make steady improvement in 2014 and beyond. Morse is a good player, but he’s not a second-round NFL Draft pick. Hansbrough is the man here.
The defensive back seven still is a bigger concern than the offense. But the losses, combined with a few hiccups in the fall scrimmages, raise at least a bit of suspicion regarding the Missouri passing game. Pinkel will spread out the targets, incorporate the backs and tight ends in the passing game and rely on running the ball.
But Missouri, which had one of the best trios of receivers in the SEC and the nation last season, won’t be crushing foes on their way to a Top 5 ranking without some significant development at the skill positions on offense.
This offense isn’t as explosive as last season’s, but with some smart play-calling and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the personnel, Missouri still should put up enough points to compete with most every team on its schedule.