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Missouri receivers try to fill big shoes in Black and Gold Game

Saturday, April 19, 2014 | 7:42 p.m. CDT; updated 11:32 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Missouri Tigers football team plays in its annual Black and Gold spring scrimmage on Saturday. Roughly 23,000 fans showed up to see the Tigers for the first time since their Cotton Bowl win in January.

COLUMBIA — Marcus Lucas' cleats are for sale.

The former Missouri wide receiver, who caught 58 passes last season during the Tigers' improbable run to the Southeastern Conference championship game, has no need for his school-issued Nike Air LT 2.1 D's. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is training in a new pair of kicks as he prepares for the NFL Draft.

Three hours before Saturday's Black and Gold game at Faurot Field, the size 15 cleats sat on a shelf at the Tiger Team Store. The Missouri apparel shop was hosting a used gear sale for fans before the annual spring scrimmage.

Both literally and figuratively, Missouri has some big shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball.

The team's top three leaders in receptions are gone, including Lucas and recently dismissed wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Those receivers were productive and big, averaging 6'5" in height and 14.9 yards per catch. This year's corps of receivers, though shorter and less experienced, want to prove they can be just as productive.

"You’re not going to get anything less than last year from me," redshirt freshman receiver J'Mon Moore said, noting that he won't be a drop-off from the departed wideouts.  "As a unit, we’ll still be the best SEC receiving corps."

Moore and company gave fans a glimpse of what they can do at the spring game, running deep routes that allowed first-team quarterback Maty Mauk to get outside the pocket and scramble against the reserves. The reserves, who began the game with a 14-point handicap, won the scrimmage 21-20.

"We all jump just as high and run just as fast," senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt said.

To add some size to Mauk's arsenal of weapons, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel experimented with tight ends Clayton Echard and Sean Culkin during the scrimmage.  Those two, along with Jason Reese, are expected to help Missouri reduce its dependence on five-wide sets.

"You want to talk about our receiver losses ... We've had times where we run two wide receivers, two tight ends and a running back," Pinkel said. "That gives you a lot of different directions you can go."

Offensive coordinator Josh Henson and the coaching staff will take the offseason to further analyze their receiving options. He said after the spring game that they would continue to move players around into various receiving positions before practice resumes Aug. 1.

Like Lucas' cleats, Missouri's spring season has been shelved.

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.


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