New year, new role for Luther Burden in Mizzou football's passing attack

COLUMBIA, Mo. — One curious omission from the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team was the wide receiver who led Missouri in targets, catches and yards in 2022 and earned postseason All-SEC honors as one of the league’s breakout playmakers. Dominic Lovett might have sacrificed individual honors for team success when he swapped Tiger stripes for Georgia black and red, but his former team isn’t sweating his departure.
Mizzou projected 2023 depth chart
Mizzou does not release a preseason depth chart. The depth listed above is an early projection.
Position Number Name Year
Running back 7 Cody Schrader Graduate student
8 Nate Peat Graduate student
22 Tavorus Jones Redshirt freshman
35 Michael Cox Junior
20 Jamal Roberts Freshman
X receiver (outside) 1 Theo Wease Jr. Senior
11 Dannis Jackson Junior
25 Ja’Marion Wayne Redshirt freshman
16 Daniel Blood Freshman
Z receiver (outside) 5 Mookie Cooper Junior
9 Peanut Houston Senior
TBA Josh Manning Freshman
H receiver (slot) 3 Luther Burden III Sophomore
10 Mekhi Miller Sophomore
17 Marquis Johnson Freshman
Tight end 81 Tyler Stephens Senior
84 Ryan Hoerstkamp Sophomore
88 Max Whisner Redshirt freshman
87 Brett Norfleet Freshman
TBA Jordon Harris Freshman
In fact, when Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz arrived at SEC media days last week in Nashville, he said wide receiver is “by far the deepest, most competitive position on our team” — thanks to some offseason reinforcements and another expected breakthrough.
“There’s no replacing Dominic Lovett,” Drinkwitz said. “Dominic Lovett is his own player and has his own unique characteristics and competitive spirit, and (I) wish him the best in his new opportunity. We want Luther Burden to be uniquely Luther in the slot position, a bigger body, a guy who is going to have more free access (and) different route combinations that he’s going to use within Kirby’s offense.”
Burden’s highly anticipated freshman season came with some typical freshman mistakes and learning curves, but an offseason move in new coordinator Kirby Moore’s system could position Burden to match, if not eclipse, Lovett’s production last fall.
Missouri Tigers vs Arkansas Razorbacks
Missouri wide receiver Luther Burden III, right, runs in for a touchdown against Arkansas on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Columbia, Mo.
Post-Dispatch photo
Burden, the former five-star recruit from St. Louis and East St. Louis High, finished his debut season with 45 catches for 375 yards and six touchdowns, plus another two rushing scores as part of the most prolific season for a Mizzou freshman in four years. His 614 all-purpose yards were the most for a Tigers rookie since former tailback Tyler Badie went for 809 in 2018. Burden, playing outside receiver all season, missed parts of games with an ankle injury and struggled with drops early in the year — his seven drops were tied for second in the SEC — but Drinkwitz expects him to thrive as Lovett’s successor in the slot. Lovett snagged 56 passes for 846 yards and three scores last year.
“Obviously there was a need created there with the transfer of Dominic, so Luther will slide to that slot position (where) he and Mekhi Miller will really do a great job there,” Drinkwitz said. “I think that allows him some more freedom in routes consistently in our offense. The slot gets the most amount of targets, so it’s easier to get the playmakers the ball in (their) hands. Obviously, Dominic received a large portion of those targets last year, which led him to be named an All-SEC wide receiver.”
As for Burden’s old position on the outside, the Tigers added two Power Five transfers to make plays on the perimeter: Oklahoma’s Theo Wease Jr. and Mississippi’s Dannis Jackson. Wease enjoyed his most productive season in 2020 when he caught 37 passes for 530 yards and four touchdowns. At Oklahoma, Wease dropped just six passes on 99 career targets and averaged 16.3 yards per reception.
Players lost from 2022 roster
Position Name Reason
Running back Taj Butts Entered transfer portal
Elijah Young Transfer, Western Kentucky
B.J. Harris Transer, Central Michigan
Wide receiver Barrett Banister Out of eligiblity
Chance Luper Medical scholarship
Dominic Lovett Transfer, Georgia
Tauskie Dove Transfer, Memphis
Tight end Kibet Chepyator Out of eligibility
Drinkwitz has raved about junior Mookie Cooper’s offseason, calling the former Ohio State transfer “Mr. Consistent” in Nashville. Also on the outside there’s Demariyon “Peanut” Houston, who overcame an injury late last season and saved his best moments for Mizzou’s bowl loss. Highly touted freshman Josh Manning could work his way into the rotation, too.
One recurring mystery for the 2023 Tigers is the tight end position. Last year’s group combined for just 10 catches for 112 yards. In Drinkwitz’s three seasons, no tight end has more receptions than Niko Hea’s 18 in 2021. Senior Tyler Stephens returns this fall — he caught only five balls last year, including a touchdown against No. 1 Georgia — but promising freshmen Brett Norfleet (Francis Howell) and Jordon Harris could challenge for roles early.
In the backfield, unless youngsters Tavorus Jones or Jamal Roberts (St. Mary’s) can unseat the incumbents, two graduates will handle the workload, at least early in the season. Cody Schrader (Lutheran South) and Nate Peat combined for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns last year while Schrader gradually took over as the primary back in the second half of the season. Peat’s overtime fumble in the end zone cost Mizzou a victory at Auburn, followed by a red-zone fumble against Vanderbilt that all but sidelined him for the rest of the year. But this offseason he clocked the fastest 40-yard dash time of any offensive player and looks to rebound from last fall’s setbacks.
No matter who gets the carries, the Tigers need more explosive plays out the backfield. As a tandem, Schrader and Peat combined for nine runs of 20 yards or more and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry after contact, per Pro Football Focus.
“Nate had a really good spring,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s kind of like all of us: He has something to prove. Obviously disappointed in a couple of plays last year, and I think mentally just having to realize that the past is the past and you’ve got to move on from it, learn from it, but don’t dwell on it. … Him being in prime condition and healthy to start the year is really important for us.”
Mizzou football team's defensive line could hinge on Johnny Walker's emergence

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