March 19, 2009

Young crew ready at receiver

Following the first spring practice for Missouri, Blaine Gabbert raised an eyebrow or two. The sophomore quarterback, in line to take over the Tigers' high-octane offense, said he thought the receiving corps would be better in 2009 than it was last season.

Yes, that would be the same receiving corps that lost a combined 264 catches, 3,080 yards and 30 touchdowns from Jeremy Maclin, Tommy Saunders and Chase Coffman.

"I think he has a lot of confidence in his teammates, and that's a positive thing," offensive coordinator David Yost said after a chuckle. "Replacing guys like Coffman and Maclin is never easy, but we've got some good players, we recruited well and it's time for those guys to step up and make plays."

Those guys would include starters Jared Perry and Danario Alexander, who are sitting out spring ball with injuries. But more than that, it's the young receivers the Tigers will count on this season. Wideouts Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp saw spot duty as true freshmen last season, while Michael Egnew and Andrew Jones hit the field as first-year tight ends.

"Everybody had their part to play on the team and that was my part to play," said Jackson, who is a logical choice for Missouri's third starting wideout. "When the ball came my way, I just had to make plays. It probably wasn't that many opportunities, but every time an opportunity came, I had to make the play."

Jackson caught nine passes for 98 yards last season (six of them against Southeast Missouri). Jones made 20 catches for 146 yards, even starting the final two games of the year while Coffman battled turf toe. Those youngsters know they cannot fill the void alone.

"They said I did well in the two games I got to start in," Jones said. "This spring I just need to work on polishing everything up so I can, not replace Coffman and Rucker and do all that, but just try to bring my own thing. You can replace the productivity, just not replace the person."

"They can't do it by themselves," Jackson said of Perry and Alexander. "We got to have 11 guys on the team and all 11 got to come to play...We're following them, listening to what they say and they're coaching us up."

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