Listening to chatter around the country, around Columbia, and even among the students here at Mizzou, I am hearing with alarming regularity that Missouri's star wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is having a "down" year.
That he doesn't have "that same burst."
That his numbers are "down."
There is absolutely nothing to back up this claim, and absolutely every piece of evidence to refute it. Maclin is having an even better season than his redshirt freshman campaign, and that's with increased attention from opponents and fewer weapons to share his burden.
The numbers don't lie. Last season, playing with future NFL draft picks Will Franklin and Martin Rucker, Maclin burst onto the scene with 80 receptions for 1,055 yards, averaging 13.2 yards per reception with nine TDs. He also had 51 carries for 375 yards (7.4/carry) and five TDs.
This year, with a much less stellar supporting cast, Maclin has put up even bigger numbers as the focal point of Mizzou's offense. He's on pace for more yards, more touchdowns, is averaging more yards per reception AND carry, and has done it facing heightened defensive attention.
Here's a look at his projected numbers from ESPN.com:
85 receptions...1,139 yards receiving...13.4 yards/reception...11 TDs
And to anybody that questions his speed or health, did you see his 42-yard touchdown scamper on a screen pass? When Maclin caught that ball, he was probably two feet away from one of the best defenders in the Big 12, Ian Campbell. But as soon as Maclin turned upfield, he was gone. Nobody catches this guy from behind.
I wish I could say the likes of Percy Harvin, Dez Bryant, or Jordan Shipley were better, but I can only say that Michael Crabtree has better draft stock than J-Mac. Maclin's got the speed, size, hands, and route-running skills to make an amazing professional, and NFL scouts know that. I see almost no chance that he's back in Columbia for 2009.
Regardless of how Maclin decides to use his eligibility after this season, one thing is for certain: He is the best playmaker in the history of Missouri, and it's been incredible watching him play here.