COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Wide receiver Jared Perry has had ups and downs during his career at Missouri, but for his senior season, he's emerging as one of the Tigers' biggest threats.
At 6-1 and 175 pounds, Perry has bulked up substantially from the 148-pounder who arrived as a freshman. Through the first three games, Perry leads Missouri (3-0) in receiving yards with 309 and touchdowns with four. He's second on the team with 17 catches, behind Danario Alexander's 20.
Perry was named Missouri's top freshman in 2006 after catching 37 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. But he followed that up with a disappointing 13-catch season in 2007, with no scores.
"I think my mindset wasn't the same," Perry said as the Tigers prepare to play at Nevada (0-2) on Friday. "I probably thought I made it my freshman year, which I didn't. I should have kept going and it showed on the field."
Part of Perry's sophomore slump had to do with who else was on the field. Between Jeremy Maclin, Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, all of whom are now playing in the NFL, there just wasn't enough football to go around.
"I always want the ball but as long as we were winning I can't get too mad," Perry said. "I just put my little piece of the puzzle in."
His upswing began last season, when he caught 41 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns, though he was still overshadowed by Maclin, Coffman and Tommy Saunders, who combined for more than 3,000 receiving yards.
This season got off to a rocky start when Perry dropped two balls in the preseason scrimmage and dropped to No. 2 on the depth chart. It didn't keep him down.
"I just had a bad scrimmage," Perry said. "I knew I had to reevaluate myself and go out there the next day of practice and show them the mistake that they made by moving me down."
Alexander, who has had his fair share of struggles, too, talked to Perry during that period.
"He knew that he had to step up and I just told him to keep his head up," Alexander said. "He knew he had to come back and work hard to get his spot back."
So far, so good.
"What doesn't break you makes you stronger," Perry said. "Having those seasons made me better."
"Me and J.P. have been through a lot here coming in as receivers together," he said. "For us to both excel on the field, it means a great deal to us."