Fourteen months ago, Missouri made national headlines when it landed a signature from the nation's top-ranked high school football player. And then, Dorial Green-Beckham got to college.
"Going in as a freshman, no matter how good you were in high school," James Franklin said. "Not saying he didn't have confidence last year, but the mentality of going out there, playing on the big scene..."
It wasn't that DGB's first season in college was bad. He was fourth on the team in catches (28) and yards (395) and led the Tigers with five touchdowns, including two in a comeback win at Tennessee. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't quite maybe number one in the country good. Add in a one-game suspension for possession of marijuana and a 5-7 record for the team and seemingly for every positive there was a negative in Green-Beckham's freshman season.
"I feel like this year I'm more comfortable, I'm more comfortable with who's thorwing the ball and what I need to do to get open," Green-Beckham said. "I'm used to it all. Just coming out here and thinking more about the game and I can worry about all that stuff outside of football later."
The increased comfort level is showing. In two scrimmages this spring, DGB has 15 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He has been Missouri's leading receiver in both. On Saturday, he was targeted eight times by three different Missouri quarterbacks. He caught all eight.
"It seems like he's more of a veteran out there where he's running his routes and he's gonna catch the ball no matter what," Franklin said.
"He's just a different guy," Gary Pinkel said. "His maturity level, you can see it now. He catches the ball so well. He can turn an average play into a big play. And I think we're starting to see how really how good he can be. And he can be a lot better than we're seeing right now. And he will."
For some of that, Green-Beckham credits new offensive coordinator Josh Henson. Henson has put the sophomore at the X-receiver spot, one of the outside receiver positions. Last year, he often lined up in the slot...or the position that is commonly called a tight end in Mizzou's spread attack.
"During high school, I played a lot of that X spot on the outside," Green-Beckham said. "That's the spot that I belonged in and that's the spot I'm used to."
In addition, he now lines up on the same side of the formation on a regular basis, rather than rotating depending on the play call.
"It saves us from getting tired, from going from one side of the field, going to the other, then having to run a deep route, then a shorter route, then having to come back to that spot or switching all the way to the other side of the field," he said. "It's more easy for us to go down and back and go back to the same spot we came from."
Teammates and coaches are still wary--at least publicly--of putting too much on Green-Beckham.
"Our whole wide receiver corps is just phenomenal," center Evan Boehm said. "I don't think we're looking at just more from Dorial, we're looking for a lot more out of everybody."
"He's coming along. He's gaining confidence in the system," new wide receivers coach Pat Washington added. "I think you have enough ability that you can spread the field and people have to pay attention to everyone, not just one particular guy. That's a good thing."
Washington has worked with NFL receivers like Peerless Price, Donte Stallworth and Robert Meacham. In a few short weeks, Washington has seen plenty of promise in the Tigers' sophomore star.
"I hate to put a tag on a person until he plays a game. A real game," Washington said. "Some guys can do well in practice and then they can't perform in the arena. I don't want to tag him or label him, but he does have talent, yes."
The Tigers are hoping this is the year that talent truly starts to shine through.
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