Maclin's departure leaves huge hole for Missouri

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There was no real surprise Friday when Missouri's Jeremy Maclin announced that he will be leaving college early to declare for the NFL draft.

Maclin is as ready as he'll ever be. And his position as a receiver/kick returner places him in jeopardy on any single play. So declaring for the NFL was the smart decision for him to make.

The scouts I talk to think that Maclin's game will translate well to the next level. But I'm wondering if a player can truly be an effective receiver and a kick returner in the NFL in today's game. It will be interesting to see which way Maclin's career veers after he starts playing on Sundays. I'm betting he'll do only one.

Maclin leaves as one of the most productive players in Missouri history. Tiger fans will always remember the way he left school with a scintillating performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern in his final game.

His 75-yard punt return kick-started a lagging Missouri effort. And he punctuated his career by catching the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

His departure creates a gaping hole for the Tigers, who already lose the most productive pass-and-catch combination in school history with Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman leaving school.

Maclin's return would have helped the Tigers stay competitive in what I think will be an evenly balanced North Division. But expected starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert will have to find some other targets to make Missouri a North title contender.

Jerrell Jackson will get the first opportunity to replace Maclin. And receivers like Jared Perry, Danario Alexander, Wes Kemp and tight end Andrew Jones figure to get many opportunities in new coordinator Dave Yost's offense.