It’s hard to come in and dominate right away. What are realistic expectations for Burden in his first year at Mizzou?
We’re all expecting big things from Luther Burden III this season, and for good reason. Burden is inarguably the best wide receiver to commit to Mizzou since Dorial Green-Beckham. He’s the most polished wide receiver to commit to Mizzou since Jeremy Maclin.
That tends to portend good things on the field.
How good, though? What are the realistic expectations for his on-field production in year one? Let’s take a look back at what Mizzou’s blue chip wide receiver recruits have done over the past 20 years to find out if that can be a guide.
… Nope. Definitely not a guide.
The only Mizzou blue chip wide receiver recruit to finish with more than 30 receptions, 500 yards and/or 5 touchdowns in his respective freshman season was Jeremy Maclin. He finished with 80 receptions for more than 1,000 yards and 13 total touchdowns from scrimmage. But Maclin did it as a redshirt freshman after an injury wiped out his true freshman year. Is that a fair comparison? Maybe not.
Maybe the SEC can be a better guide. And what if we limit the search to only 5-star recruits (as Burden was) instead of also including other 4-star players who might have been bigger projects than Burden is expected to be. Who fits into that criteria?
Let’s take a look!
Okay, this is better. There are some reasonable comparisons for what Burden could/is expected to be early in his Missouri career. Guys like Laquon Treadwell, D’Haquille Williams, Calvin Ridley, Jaylen Waddle and George Pickens, for example, dominated as true freshmen in the SEC. A few of those could be reasonable facsimiles for what we can expect from Burden.
Burden is fast, but he wins with physicality and competitive fire. His separation is secondary to his ability to win contested catches. That’s not to suggest he can’t separate – he absolutely can – but even when a defensive back “wins” a rep before the ball is thrown, Burden tends to find a way to come away with the ball and ultimately wins the rep for the offense. It’s his trump card.
In that way, he has some similarities to the way guys like Treadwell, Williams and Pickens won as true freshmen. Treadwell, Williams and Pickens were all listed at between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4 and between 195 and 2000 pounds. Burden was listed on his recruiting profile at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. The physical profiles are similar.
The average seasons among that trio was 55 receptions for 690 yards and six touchdowns. Would that be considered a successful season for Burden?
It probably should be.
here has not been a single true freshman Missouri receiver to finish with at least 50 receptions, 600 receiving yards or six receiving touchdowns in the last 20 years.
Burden could be the first. He could also be so much more.
Projecting a talent like Burden is impossible. You don’t want to put limits on what he could be. He’s not the “next” anything. He’s the first Luther Burden III. But you also don’t want to place expectations so high they’re impossible to reach.
Finishing his first season with 50 receptions for 600 yards and six touchdowns should be viewed as a tremendous freshman year. It sets him up well for what his sophomore season could be. It would be one of the top 10 freshman seasons in the SEC for a former 5-star recruit in the last 15 years. That’s not too shabby, given his peers.
If you’re looking for someone a guide on what Burden and Dominic Lovett could be as teammates at Missouri, go back to Eli Drinkwitz’s tenure at NC State when he had Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Myers at wide receiver, both of whom finished with at least 60 receptions and 700+ yards in 2017. They followed it up with 80+ reception seasons for 1,000+ yards in 2018. That’s the kind of duo this could become.
It’s hard to predict what Burden could be at Missouri. In some ways, history can be our guide. But Burden isn’t yet part of that history. He’s about to write his own script. I can’t wait to watch the final product.