Missouri's receivers kept busy in Yost's spread offense

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

So much for a learning curve. New Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost will be facing several positional replacements in his first season in his new job with the Tigers.

Obviously, finding a new quarterback to take the place of Chase Daniel will be the biggest challenge. Sophomore Blaine Gabbert appears to have that task firmly at hand heading into preseason practice.

But another huge challenge facing Yost will be to replace wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman, two All-Big 12 receivers who were selections in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.

Those departures have Yost shuffling through various positional groupings as he attempts to sort out the changing demands he has for his receivers. The work will be important as the Tigers aim for their third straight appearance in the Big 12 championship game -- a feat that never has been accomplished by a North Division team.

How much has the talent you guys have accumulated over recent years provided you the opportunity to make your offense different from one season to the next?

David Yost: Coach [Gary] Pinkel is a very direct guy and he thinks things through and doesn't fly by the seat of the pants. And that's the beauty of this offense.

When we had [former Missouri quarterback] Brad [Smith] we ran him more. Then we got Chase Daniel in here who could run the football, but also could also lead us to more passing because of his talents. That helped us transform our offense into more of a passing philosophy.

At one time when we had [tight ends] Chase [Coffman] and Martin Rucker, we were running a lot of two-tight end offenses. Then we had a set of receivers, but not necessarily ones that would be as suited to running the spread. Then, we started recruiting guys like Jeremy Maclin and stopping using as much two-tight end sets.

Now, after losing Coffman and Maclin, we'll be a little thinner at wide receiver this season. Because of that, we're kind of adjusting what we're doing. We'll be using three wideouts and our tailback more as a rusher and a receiver.

We feel our offense gives us a chance to get our best 11 players on the field. And we can do things differently depending on the personnel we have on hand.

How do you think those things will be changing this season without Maclin and Coffman?

DY: We feel like there will be a lot of catches to go around and we tell that to our recruits. Sure, Maclin caught 102 balls last year, but a couple of other guys had 60 catches for us. Three years ago, four guys had 60 catches. It's whatever you have, you can take advantage of.

But look at [tailback] Derrick Washington. He's not just a guy who catches screens or flares. He goes out and runs a lot of routes.

We'd like to get a little more balanced in our catching this season. We feel we're better when we can have all five guys involved. Last year, they definitely circled No. 9 [Maclin] and No. 45 [Coffman] when they were getting their defensive plans ready for us.

But this year, we'll be using a receiver-by-committee plan. We should have six-to-eight guys capable of catching 40-to-70 balls. We'll run a little more. We've got more guys who can help get us a little faster. And we'll be getting back to the kind of offense where we have a lot of interchangeable parts.

What specifically do you guys demand from your receivers?

DY: We ask a lot of those guys. They've got to be playmakers when they get the football in their hands. You line up with five guys [receivers] and we stress after they get the ball in their hands that they can make something happen. We want a guy who runs with a purpose. And since we don't line up with a tight end on every play, we really value blocking among our receivers, too. Our H and Y [receiving positions] have to be high-level blockers. It's amazing that we threw the ball 565 times last year, but we still ran it on 417 plays, too. So those receivers have to be prepared to block for us as well as going out and catching it.