A year ago, Danario Alexander was one of the least-known and most rarely publicized members of Missouri's 2006 recruiting class. On Tuesday, he lined up as a Tiger starter during the second scrimmage of the spring.
"The coaches told me that I would be in the starting lineup, so I had to take advantage of it," Alexander said. "It came at me pretty fast."
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver certainly did nothing to disappoint. He had a team-high four catches for 86 yards during the scrimmage, including a circus one-handed grab on the first series of the day.
"It's fun seeing him compete there, and we've got a lot of competition there," said head coach Gary Pinkel. "He's making plays out there. He's a big, tall, athletic guy that can make plays."
A two-star prospect out of Marlin (TX) High School, Alexander was not supposed to be one of the three best receivers on this team. Heck, he was regarded as the third-best receiver in his own recruiting class by most, behind Jeremy Maclin and Jared Perry.
"I was a late recruit. I came here with a chip on my shoulder to come out and play hard," Alexander said. "It was my goal to start, but it's kind of crazy, though."
But an injury to Maclin and a standout effort in summer workouts earned Alexander a shot at early playing time as a true freshman. He turned that chance into 15 catches for 251 yards during the year, but really made his impression in the final two games of the season.
Against Kansas, Alexander might have made the biggest impression on a play he didn't even touch the ball. When Perry took a short pass for a 75-yard touchdown, he was leaving Jayhawk defenders behind. Only Alexander, looking for a late block to assist Perry to the end zone, made up ground on the Tiger receiver. Then, in the Sun Bowl against Oregon State, Alexander caught a 74-yard touchdown pass of his own from Chase Daniel.
"So fast," said senior tight end Martin Rucker. "In the Sun Bowl, he caught that pass and took it down the sideline and that was just kind of an eye-opener. I was like, 'Who is this guy?' He just never let up. He picked up right where he left off."
In a receiving corps that Pinkel has called maybe the best he'll ever coach, no spot is safe with five months left until the opener against Illinois. Perry, and perhaps Maclin, figure to make a charge at Alexander's current status as a starter.
"I just got to work hard," Alexander said. "Work hard in the weight room, practice, everywhere. Just stay consistent."
But considering how quickly he rose to that spot, Alexander doesn't figure to give it up without a fight.