Missouri boasts wealth of playmakers at receiver

Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (15), shown getting tackled by Indiana’s Mark Murphy during last Saturday’s game in Bloomington, Ind., is part of a deep receiving corps for the Tigers.

Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (15), shown getting tackled by Indiana’s Mark Murphy during last Saturday’s game in Bloomington, Ind., is part of a deep receiving corps for the Tigers. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A pair of personal highs were set in Missouri’s 45-28 victory against Indiana on Saturday.

The win marked the first 100-yard receiving game in the careers of Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas.

And there were still plenty of balls to go around to everyone else.

In the first three games, Missouri quarterback James Franklin has had no shortage of people to throw to, a sign receiver has become one of Missouri’s deepest positions.

Green-Beckham had eight catches for 105 yards Saturday, while Lucas had 10 receptions for 101 yards.

But others stepped up as well. L’Damian Washington added five catches, while Jimmie Hunt finished with six. Spreading out the ball has been the norm for the Tigers this season through three games.

“We have a lot of guys contributing,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said.

The sheer number of possible targets has helped open up Missouri’s offense this season. With defenses having to focus on more than one or two credible targets, more mismatches have been created.

“You find a lot of zone or single coverage,” Lucas said. “It’s nice to basically be running 1-on-1 routes out there. If they try and double it, or try to sit back, we’ve got guys like Henry (Josey) and Russell (Hansbrough) and (Marcus) Murphy to do the rest.”

Lucas and Washington, both seniors, have seen their production increase each season. But a young Missouri receiver is starting to see the same jump.

Green-Beckham has 17 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He’s already approaching his freshman numbers when he caught 28 passes for 395 yards.

Throughout the spring and summer, coaches and players raved about the improvement they saw out of Green-Beckham. It’s carried over into the season.

“Sometimes when you don’t really know exactly what you’re doing, it’s hard to know how to do it,” receivers coach Pat Washington said. “He’s gotten better at the point of what, therefore he’s gotten better at how.”

Added Lucas: “I think he’s just more confident. He just knows what he’s doing out there. He was really raw last year and kind of got thrown into the fire. With a year under his belt, I feel like he’s playing with more confidence.”

While Green-Beckham has improved tactically, there was never any doubt about his physical presence. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, he can be an intimidating presence for defensive backs. The same though can be said about Lucas (6-5) and Washington (6-4). The Tigers receiving corps looks more like a basketball team at first glance.

“We’re fortunate enough to have some guys like that around here,” Pinkel said. “I think it can be a real advantage. It’s about speed and making plays. If you have great speed and are a good athlete, you have the height along with it, your range as a receiver is a lot different.”

That advantage played out in Missouri’s 38-23 win against Toledo on Sept. 8, as Franklin found Green-Beckham in the end zone on a fade pattern. Green-Beckham went up and got the ball over Toledo’s Jordan Martin who was three inches shorter.

“It creates a mismatch in the air,” Lucas said. “We’re catching a lot of jump balls and a lot of deep balls this year. It’s been a lot different since I’ve been here. It’s nice to have all those targets out there. All across the board we’ve got a lot of height and speed.”

Notes: Missouri (3-0) is back in action Saturday against Arkansas State. The game will kick at 6:30 p.m. and will air locally on KMIZ-TV. ... PInkel would not comment regarding a possible injury to defensive tackle Matt Hoch during Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “The only time I’m going to comment on injuries is Monday at our press conference and nobody asked, so I’m not going to comment,” Pinkel said.

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