Maclin making moves at Mizzou in remade receiver corps

Dave Matter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Mizzou redshirt freshman wide receiver Jay Maclin doesn't mind the inevitable comparisons to his older cousin. He's more than happy to play along and share a personal scouting report. How does he stack up with two-time All-American Jeremy Maclin?

"He's faster, taller, probably got better hands by a little bit, just a little bit," Jay Maclin said after a spring practice this week. "I'm probably more shiftier, better route-runner. I don't have his speed, but I rely a lot more on my skills, my skill set. We're both really good players.

"But we're both dogs and just ready to eat and have some fun."

Jeremy Maclin, a dynamic receiver and return specialist for the Tigers in 2007-08, retired from the NFL two years ago after catching 514 passes over a nine-year career in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Baltimore. Now 32, he's settling into a new role as Kirkwood High School's varsity coach, the same program that produced both Maclins: Jeremy graduated in 2006; Jay in 2020.

Jay got a taste of playing time for the Tigers last fall — he played in three games and caught a 5-yard pass at South Carolina — but in the team's first full spring under second-year coach Eli Drinkwitz, Maclin is one piece to an overhauled wide receiver group, one of five freshmen and sophomores pushing for roles this fall.

"He's trying to crack the lineup and make an impact in that wide receiver room," Drinkwitz said. "We've got a lot of guys there. He's trying to be consistent. Obviously the better the competition, the more you have to really work and prove your worth. He's trying to do that."

Seven of the 10 receivers who caught a pass last year will compete for roles this year with another three additions in the mix. Javian Hester, a former four-star recruit, sat out last year, what would have been his freshman season, while nursing a toe injury. Two newcomers, Mookie Cooper, a transfer from Ohio State, and Dominic Lovett, a freshman from East St. Louis High, have instantly upgraded the group's speed. Cooper joined the program at the semester break and should be cleared to play this fall once the NCAA grants eligibility to first-time transfers. Lovett, a four-star prospect, enrolled in January and became the team's first newcomer to earn a jersey number, No. 7.

The remastered receiver corps might be the top attraction at Saturday's spring game. The annual spring scrimmage kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be open to the public. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network-Plus.

"It's definitely a room that's gone under a transformation since we've been here and continues to go under a transformation just because we need to improve," Drinkwitz said. "We know how certain defenses are going to play us. We have to win one-on-one matchups. That's going to be the key. We've tried to get more dynamic, more explosive on the perimeter. We've got to continue to do that."

Maclin expects to make an impact, too. As a junior and senior at Kirkwood, the 5-foot-11 playmaker averaged nearly 18 yards per reception and caught 17 touchdowns. He committed to Mizzou's 2020 recruiting class in April 2019 — before Drinkwitz replaced Barry Odom — but stuck with his pledge after the coaching change, knowing obvious pressures and expectations would follow the name on the back of his jersey.

When he joined the team last year, he didn't choose his cousin's No. 9 — but stayed close with No. 19.

"I just want to be able to do things for Mizzou, my family, and just carry on that last name," he said Tuesday.

Jay's father is Jeremy's first cousin, making the Maclins first cousins once removed. The two remain close.

"I told him that if (Mizzou's) the place he decided to go, yeah, there's going to be some added pressure," Jeremy said in 2019. "That's the nature of the world we live in. When you have a guy in your family who comes before you who's pretty successful, people are going to expect you to be the same kind of player. I definitely think Jay can. I'm excited for him. At the same time I understand there are standards that are set just because of your last name. There will be pressure for sure."

And competition. Cooper and Lovett needed only a couple spring practices to make a strong first impression. Keke Chism, last year's team leader in targets, receptions and receiving yards, chose to return for another senior season after the NCAA granted all players an extra year of eligibility. The Tigers also return veteran receivers Tauskie Dove, Barrett Banister, Micah Wilson and Jalen Knox, who's missing spring drills after undergoing offseason surgery. But the rookies are commanding attention, Cooper especially.

Maclin grew up playing youth basketball with Cooper long before they grew into college football prospects. As Maclin pushes for a role in the offense this fall, he's not surprised by the rookie's rapid transition.

"He can add a lot," Maclin said of the former Buckeye. "He's very shifty, fast. He can catch. He can do it all. That guy's going to be really special. I can't wait to see."