Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham just can't seem to stay out of trouble, and this time, his playing status is in doubt.
The 6'6", 225-pound junior for the Tigers was suspended indefinitely by the program for violation of team policies, according to a release sent via email by Missouri on Monday afternoon.
It's the third time in his career Green-Beckham has been in trouble publicly. He was arrested along with two other men earlier this year for possession of a controlled substance. That incident is still under investigation, according to Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star. He was arrested in 2012 for suspicion of possessing 35 grams or fewer of marijuana and pleaded the charge down to misdemeanor trespassing.
Is his suspension related to the most recent arrest? He is the subject of an ongoing investigation, according to Palmer, but the specifics of it are not known. The Maneater, Missouri's student newspaper, reported on Tuesday that a fight involving Green-Beckham took place over the weekend, but that isn't necessarily related to his absence.
Pinkel commented on the suspension in the release.
It’s been disappointing to have this, and other issues which have taken place lately. It’s frustrating, because we work very hard to instill responsibility and discipline in our young men so that our program represents Mizzou the right way. These actions aren’t representative of those expectations, and we are addressing these issues head on.
Whatever the reason, or reasons, for his suspension, it's clear that Missouri and head coach Gary Pinkel felt that the time is right to distance themselves from the star receiver.
Green-Beckham caught 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns last season during Missouri's magical run to the SEC East title. In the SEC Championship Game versus Auburn, he caught six passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns and was arguably the best player in the building—a building that included former Auburn running back Tre Mason, who rushed for about five miles (OK, 304 yards and four touchdowns).
So who will step up for the Tigers?
L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas exhausted their eligibility last season, so if Green-Beckham's issues keep him out of a game or games this season, a lot of pressure will fall on 6'2", 210-pound senior Bud Sasser. Sasser caught 26 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown last season and was listed as the starting "Y" receiver on Missouri's pre-spring depth chart.
While Sasser has the experience and likely would take on more of a leadership role, finding a replacement at Green-Beckham's "X" spot is more important. Junior Wesley Leftwich, 6'1", 200 pounds, was listed as his backup before the spring, and Darius White, J'Mon Moore and Jake Brents—all of whom are 6'3"—are candidates to slide over to that spot.
That trio of tall receivers could be the cure to the Green-Beckham conundrum. White had 65 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, while Brents had three catches for 39 yards and Moore caught four for 31 yards, according to stats released by Mizzou.
There are options for Pinkel if Green-Beckham's suspension lingers, and having a crowded group of tall receivers at the "Z" spot makes it easier for him to plug the holes if he loses his star for a prolonged period of time.
If Green-Beckham's issues keep him from playing, the Tigers could become more of a ground-and-pound team—as was the case in 2011 when they finished ninth in the nation in rushing (243.46 YPG).
Russell Hansbrough, Marcus Murphy and Morgan Steward are all talented running backs who allow the offensive staff to get creative with how they move the football. Steward led all rushers with 117 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage.
"A guy like Morgan Steward didn't get a ton of opportunities, but he's trying to show now that he can be someone to depend on," Pinkel said in quotes released by Missouri. "I was pleased with what he did today, and now the challenge is to continue to do that through the rest of camp."
Toss in the dual-threat capabilities of quarterback Maty Mauk, and there's a recipe for success on the ground in Columbia.
Make no mistake though, Green-Beckham is the most talented wide receiver in the SEC. If he can't get his head screwed on straight, he could be what prevents the Tigers from repeating as division champs in the wide-open SEC East.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and suspension information were obtained firsthand via release from the University of Missouri, and all statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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