Can Mizzou’s Green-Beckham justify the hype?

Ben Frederickson is an award-winning writer for FOX Sports Midwest. His work has appeared in the Columbia Missourian, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New York Times, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Casper Star-Tribune.


COLUMBIA, Mo. — The

Dorial Green-Beckham question hasn’t changed.

It’s

been the same since the sophomore wide receiver at Missouri was a

five-star recruit likened to Randy Moss, a man among boys who ran

roughshod over his competition while claiming just about every record

and award made available to high school kids who play

football.

As we tend to do, we got excited when we

heard about the prodigy from Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo.

And as we do when we get excited, we started creating expectations. Big

ones.

Here, we said, is a player who on his way to

becoming an NFL star can do something so rare in college football:

single-handedly win games and influence

seasons.

Inevitably, such expectations led to the

Dorial Green-Beckham question: Will the kid live up to the hype?

His first season came and went and the consensus was

that we must wait. But not anymore. Green-Beckham’s sophomore season

will be the closest we have come to defining his

legacy.

Remember Jeremy Maclin? The former Missouri

wide receiver made quite the splash at Mizzou before joining the

Philadelphia Eagles. After redshirting one year to recover from a knee

injury, he turned in back-to-back seasons that punched his ticket to the

NFL.

Maclin’s 2007 performance ended in 2,776

all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2008, he did even more, totaling

2,833 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns. Despite playing just two

seasons, he remains Mizzou’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage.

Former Tiger quarterback Brad Smith, a four-year starter who sits in

second place, is more than 1,000 yards behind.

Maclin

was far from a nobody when Missouri signed him. But his addition made a

ripple compared to the waves Green-Beckham caused in 2012. That process

included enough recruiting letters to kill a forest, a signing ceremony

on national TV and a Missouri fan base so eager to greet its football

savior that it gathered like Beatles groupies when Green-Beckham came to

town.

With Green-Beckham, the extraordinary was

expected.

Unlike Maclin, he was thrust into duty

immediately. The true freshman started slow, but improved late. He

caught 28 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns — four of which came

during his final five games.

These results made the

quest for an answer difficult, like a scale that refuses to tip. For the

first time in his life, Green-Beckham had been challenged on a football

field. He showed enough to prove he’s not a bust, but he fell

drastically short of legitimizing the unparalleled hype. In need of more

evidence, the Green-Beckham question went without a definitive

answer.

Now, as a new season approaches, it’s time to

dust off the query once more. There’s no sense in tiptoeing around the

importance of 2013. After all, Mizzou realizes what is at stake.

Green-Beckham’s page in the team media guide

reads:

“Considered by many to be the nation’s overall

No. 1 prospect to come out of the 2012 class, he’ll be looking to

establish himself as one of the top receivers in the country after a

solid freshman campaign.”

On Saturday, he showed

another glimpse of greatness. During Missouri’s annual Black and Gold

spring scrimmage, the lanky receiver ran a dig route, caught the ball

and gracefully sprinted 35 yards — the longest reception of the

day.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable with the

game,” Green-Beckham said after it was over. “This upcoming season, a

lot of that is going to show.”

Maybe Green-Beckham is

good, but not great. Maybe he is great, but not as as great as our

imaginations led us to believe. Or, maybe he will surpass even the

loftiest expectations.

Will the kid live up to the

hype?

An answer should come this year.

You can follow Ben

Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred) and contact him at

frederickson.ben@gmail.com