Missouri Tigers position battles

Nate Brown, with five catches for 45 yards, is Missouri's most experienced returning receiver. Scott Grau/Icon Sportswire

No matter what you think about Missouri's football team this season, the Tigers are still the reigning back-to-back SEC Eastern Division champs. Now, can they make it three in a row in 2015? That's up in the air because of the loss of some very key players on both sides of the ball.

1. Wide receiver: When Mizzou faces Southeast Missouri on Sept. 5, the Tigers will have a total of 10 receptions returning to the field. And that's 10 career catches among this group of unproven wideouts. Sophomore Nate Brown leads the pack with five catches for 45 yards, and the Tigers were so desperate for receiving help this spring that the coaches moved third-string cornerback Raymond Wingo to the slot receiver spot. A former quarterback is even lining up out wide. Mizzou is having to replace a combined 147 catches from Jimmie Hunt, Bud Sasser and Darius White. The lack of experience is a little scary, but quarterback Maty Mauk has voiced his excitement about the athleticism at the position. Second-year players DeSean Blair and J'Mon Moore, who caught two passes for 33 yards last season, have deep-threat capabilities, and the lone senior, Wesley Leftwich, has really impressed at the Z position with his size, strength and speed. The competition between Blair and Moore for the starting X spot should be very fun to watch. The Tigers think they have the capable talent to be solid at receiver this fall, but the inexperience is still a little concerning. Who will step up as a consistent go-to threat?

2. Right tackle: It seems like every year the Tigers have some sort of tackle battle going on. With the incredibly versatile Connor McGovern moving to left tackle (what position hasn't he played?), the Tigers feel pretty secure on that side of the line, but there is now competition for the starting right tackle spot left by Taylor Chappell, who moved to left guard. A hotly contested battle is waging between converted defensive lineman Nate Crawford and Clay Rhodes. Both have shown flashes during the offseason. Crawford is listed as the starter, but Rhodes, who has yet to play a down of football for the Tigers in two years, has given Crawford quite the push. Crawford, who moved to offense a year ago, is a very versatile player for the Tigers, which could come in handy if they need to make any more moves up front. McGovern appears locked into the left tackle spot, but he feels more comfortable playing guard, so if the Tigers have to make a move, Crawford can help out.

3. No. 2 quarterback: OK, so Mauk is cemented as the starting quarterback. That's not up for debate, but the competition for the No. 2 spot is intriguing. Think of this as preparing for the future. True freshman Drew Lock had a great first scrimmage over the weekend, throwing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 14 of 19 passing. He has shown natural ability and instinct that has the coaches excited. He has a big arm and solid athleticism that could get him on the field earlier than expected. But he'll have to beat out redshirt sophomore Eddie Printz, who played in three games last season. Printz, another dual-threat quarterback, has just one career pass attempt, which basically puts him on relatively equal footing with Lock. Mizzou hopes neither plays much, but if one has to, they would like to have some confidence in him.