Nine games into the 2009 college football season, it became quickly apparent that Missouri receiver Danario Alexander needed to re-evaluate his preseason expectations.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior had entered the year bent on gaining 1,000 receiving yards. So when, during a game against Baylor three weeks ago, he surpassed that goal with a 214-yard outing, he realized that maybe his preseason goal had been a bit modest.
“It has been surprising to me,” said Alexander, who has caught 92 passes for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns this season with two games left to play. “But the ball’s coming to me, I try to make plays after the catches, and it’s been working out for me.”
Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the team’s past four games, in which he finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado, followed it with a 214-yard, one-touchdown performance against Baylor, racked up another 200 yards against Kansas State and is coming off a 173-yard outing against Iowa State last week.
Not bad for a receiver who, given the deep crop of receiving talent in the Big 12, entered the season as a relative unknown.
With Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant suspended by the NCAA for the remainder of the season, however, and Kansas’ Dezmon Briscoe the victim of a struggling Jayhawks offense, Alexander has established himself as the creme de la creme of the conference’s receivers.
His 128.4 receiving yards per game rank third nationally, while his 12 touchdowns tie for third. What’s more, he has provided a significant boost to a team that many figured would enter rebuilding mode following the departure of one-time Heisman contenders Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin.
“I know there’s a lot of great receivers in the country,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “We had a pretty good one here last year. He played last night for the Eagles. But this guy is one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
Pinkel certainly believed that in the summer of 2007, when he named Alexander a starter in front of a then-unknown Maclin.
But an injury derailed Alexander’s season, and Maclin went on to become the most accomplished receiver in Tigers history, finishing his career with 182 catches for 2,315 yards and 22 touchdowns.
“I thought about it at one point a lot,” Alexander said of disappointment of missing out on the team’s Cotton Bowl-victory season. “But I had to let it go and move on with my life. I couldn’t let that effect my play coming into this season or past seasons, so I let it go and just wanted to be myself and try to gain a little identity.”
Now healthy for the first time since his freshman year, Alexander’s making up for lost time.
Having surpassed Maclin on the Missouri single-season receiving-yards list last week against the Cyclones, Alexander is now moving up the Big 12’s top-10 single-season receiving yardage list. He currently sits in sixth place all-time, though successful outings against Kansas and the team’s bowl opponent theoretically could see him conclude his career as high as second (former Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree’s 1,962-yard 2007 season would be nearly impossible to reach).
“You always want to go out on top,” Alexander said. “God willing, if things keep going the way they’re going, that’s the way it’s going to be. So I’m very thankful and I’m happy for everything.”