Mizzou WR Green-Beckham back in the spotlight

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Dorial Green-Beckham remembers how it felt to play as a freshman.

Paralleling
the roller-coaster ride No. 8 Missouri has taken in the Southeastern
Conference, the star receiver experienced a tumultuous first season
before landing on his feet this year, appearing at ease as he jokes with
teammates and talks without hesitation to reporters.

“Now that
it’s my second year, I feel a lot more comfortable,” Green-Beckham said.
“I’m not looking back to what I did last year.”

The sophomore
arrived in Columbia after amassing national prep records of 6,353 career
receiving yards and 75 touchdown receptions, fueling expectations that
rivaled those of any other incoming player in school history.

Green-Beckham
then led Missouri with five touchdown catches, but often got lost in
the shuffle of a seven-man receiving rotation, including a three-game
stretch in which he caught three passes for 16 yards. Off the field, he
pleaded guilty for trespassing after an initial arrest for suspicion of
possessing marijuana.

“When you walk into a school and you start
as a true freshman, you’ve got those nerves every single game,”
sophomore center Evan Boehm said. “You know you have eyes on you. You
can’t mess up, and that’s all you’re worried about.”

With help from his teammates, Green-Beckham gradually became more comfortable with the playbook and his new surroundings.

“I
didn’t know what I was doing sometimes,” he said, “but having those
guys whispering stuff to you and letting it click in your head, after a
few times, you just got it down quickly.”

After catching 28
passes for 395 yards last season, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound native of
Springfield, Mo., has 40 receptions for 579 yards and nine touchdowns
this year, capped by a school-record four-score performance Nov. 9 in a
48-17 win at Kentucky.

Coach Gary Pinkel thought Green-Beckham
was a step quicker in practice leading up to the matchup with the
Wildcats, but he didn’t realize it would be a harbinger of things to
come.

“There’s a lot of players I could talk about that were just
kind of doing OK, playing well, playing well, then all of a sudden,
they’re playing at a whole different level,” he said. “And it happens to
very gifted players who keep working hard and persevere and keep
battling to get better.”

Green-Beckham says he enters each
contest with the mentality that he can’t be stopped, because that’s what
it takes to win. Even though he wasn’t running past Kentucky’s
defensive backs, he made the most of his lanky frame and jumped over
them to haul in three of his touchdowns.

Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC)
has four receivers who are at least 6-foot-4, helping the team weather
the loss of senior quarterback James Franklin to injury and pass for
256.8 yards per game.

First-year receivers coach Pat Washington
said all of his players are enjoying the Tigers’ resurgence, and their
attitude will dictate whether the team can defeat No. 24 Ole Miss (7-3,
3-3) and Texas A&M to capture the SEC East.

“Anytime you have
a little success, and you can contribute, then you enjoy it,”
Washington said. “Not to say you’re selfish, because I think all guys
enjoy winning, but competitive people want to contribute.”

Senior
L’Damian Washington leads Missouri with 680 receiving yards —
including 18.9 per catch — and has nine touchdowns, but the spotlight
will keep shining on Green-Beckham if he and the Tigers continue their
success after a 5-7 season a year ago.

“For him, it’s all going
to boil down to continuing to improve those little things — staying
humble, continuing to work,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said.
“And then just being very detailed at what he does. If he does all that,
physically, he can be as good as anybody that plays this game.”