The 2009 Missouri Tigers football team resembles the 2008 Missouri Tigers football team about as much as Boise State’s turf resembles natural grass. Sure there are some similarities, but the bottom line is, it’s different.
Last year, everyone knew what to expect heading into the Illinois game. We knew Chase Daniel would be solid at quarterback. We knew Chase Coffman was one of the best tight ends in the country. We knew Jeremy Maclin was going to be an All-American candidate at wide receiver.
Those areas are all thought to be question marks this year. However, if you ask members of the current Tigers team, they’ll tell you they once again have an All-American at wide receiver. That receiver is Danario Alexander.
“The old Danario’s back,” coach Gary Pinkel said.
If you’re an Illinois supporter that is not what you want to hear.
The old Danario is the man who caught nine passes for 82 yards against the Illini in 2007 before suffering a wrist injury. The old Danario is the man who was originally listed ahead of Jeremy Maclin on the depth chart. The old Danario is the man who hauled in a 74-yard touchdown in the Sun Bowl as a true freshman. The old Danario is a man defenses do not want to face this season.
Just ask Missouri defensive tackle Jaron Baston. He agrees with coach Pinkel that Alexander is on the verge of a great season.
“Oh man that guy is amazing on the field,” Baston said when asked about Alexander. “He’s athletic. I’ve never seen in-person an athlete that can do what he can do as far as agility, jumping.” No, Baston did not just have his eyes closed for the Maclin era. He is just that serious about Alexander’s resurgence.
“We had an All-American man, but as far as an overall receiver, [Alexander] is special,” Baston continued. “I think that he has the size, the speed, athleticism to be just as good or even better than some of those All-American guys we’ve had.”
The question for Alexander has never been his talent. It’s been his health. But now 100 percent healthy for the first time since 2007, Alexander is anxious to hit the field on Saturday.
“I’m just looking forward to playing,” Alexander said.
So while people will continue to discuss the differences in this year’s Missouri team from last year’s, those differences are not always a negative. The Tigers are hoping one difference will include a healthy Alexander for an entire season.
If that happens, the so-called drop off in talent at wide receiver might not be as extreme as everyone expects. Tiger fans, we only have a few more hours before we find out.