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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pinkel patches offense’s holes

Missouri football regroups before the Black & Gold Spring Game on Saturday.

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Sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk watches as special teams practices during the year’s first scrimmage April 5, 2014, at Memorial Stadium. Mauk is in contention for the starting quarterback position for the 2014 season.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

April 15, 2014

With the dismissal of sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham on Friday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel will find out what life is like without his top quarterback, running back and receiver from a year ago.

The Tigers lose 51.5 percent of their rushing yards, 68.6 percent of their passing yards and 76 percent of their receiving yards from last season.

Missouri will replace those stats with obvious successors at the quarterback and running back positions, but the answers at receiver remain less clear.

Senior receiver Bud Sasser moves from the slot to the outside to replace Green-Beckham. Senior Darius White will line up on the other side, while walk-on sophomore Levi Copelin will slide into the slot position.

Sasser brings the most experience of the trio, having caught 26 balls for 361 yards and a touchdown in 2013. Copelin and White combined for just 10 catches and one score.

Once the Tiger offense reached the red zone last season, Missouri quarterbacks could toss it up to the 6-foot-6-inch Green-Beckham or the 6-foot-4-inch L’Damian Washington.

Missouri returns just four of its 31 receiving touchdowns from last season, but sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk said after Saturday’s scrimmage he isn’t concerned about a lack of options in the red zone.

“I’m not worried about anything,” Mauk said. “They’re going to step up, and they’re going to do their job. Whatever we have to do to win, we’ll do it.”

Senior running back Marcus Murphy said the losses at the receiving position will not add pressure to the running game.

“I don’t know if it will shift it more on running backs,” Murphy said. “We have a lot of depth at the receiver position. … I think it will just go back to the way it was last year. It will be pretty even. We have a lot of guys that can play receiver, we have a lot of running backs. Just a lot of overall playmakers. ”

The running backs return as the most established group of the offense. Two-thirds of Missouri’s three-headed monster returns to haunt Southeastern Conference defensive coordinators for another season.

Junior Russell Hansbrough and Murphy rushed for 685 and 601 yards, respectively. Murphy punched in nine touchdowns while Hansbrough added four more.

Running back Henry Josey declared for the NFL draft at the conclusion of last season, leaving the monster without its most productive head. Josey rushed for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013.

Sophomore Morgan Steward will step into the Tigers’ rushing carousel. Steward showed what he could do in Missouri’s first scrimmage of the spring, rushing 13 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns.

Missouri fans caught a glimpse of the team’s quarterback future during a four-game stretch last season. Mauk started a crucial stretch of games while starter James Franklin recovered from a shoulder injury.

Mauk went 3-1 in that stretch, racking up not only yards and touchdowns but experience, as well.

So far, the Tigers are using the lack of proven stars to their advantage in one department: motivation.

“We’ve always been the underdogs since day one,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it will be anything but motivation for us, just to come out and work even harder, just to come out and prove to everybody that we’re here.”

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