The timing of the Texas Bowl, two days after Christmas, has proven pretty awkward from a content perspective. I wrote the two pieces I had in mind over the weekend, when no one was online. Meanwhile, Mizzou beat writers were occupied first by Braggin’ Rights, then by Christmas, and probably didn’t arrive in Houston until very recently. So the amount of overall content about this game was minimal.
That changed mid-Tuesday, when members of the Mizzou team met with the media. Suddenly, with barely 24 hours to go before the game, kaboom. Lots to write about.
Now, I’m going to save the Drew Lock stuff for a post later today. (He mentioned that the draft advisory committee told him to return to school but that he was still weighing his options.) Beyond the QB, there’s still plenty to digest from yesterday.
1. Marcell Frazier was playing hurt
Missouri DE Marcell Frazier reveals he played all year on a torn quad - and still led the SEC in tackles for loss.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) December 26, 2017
Frazier said he initially tore his quad during a July workout, then re-injured it during fall workouts. He didn’t consider sitting out to let the injury heal.
“I wanted to play through it because I felt like I was a leader of the team and I wanted to be out there with the guys,” Frazier said. “When I look back on it and watch the film, it’s like night and day from when I got healthy.”
Looking at his game log, you can somewhat tell when he may have gotten healthy. He had three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his first six games and 10.5 and 5.5, respectively, in his last six.
Good lord, what didn’t change midseason for Missouri? The schedule lightened up ... A.J. Logan came back from suspension ... Frazier got healthier ... Emanuel Hall both got healthy and had the guy ahead of him on the depth chart leave ... the path just opened up completely for this team, and it took advantage.
2. Joe Jon’s audition
Regarding Barry Odom’s offensive coordinator search, the Jedd Fisch rumors have been increasing in volume of late, and that’s fine. But interim OC Joe Jon Finley has a chance to prove himself a bit with his play-calling tonight.
Whether he’s proving himself for an OC job elsewhere, or whether he’s trying to set up a “Fisch does well enough to get hired as a head coach after a year or two, and then it’s my turn” situation (no complaints here if that’s how it plays out), it’s still an opportunity.
After offensive coordinator Josh Heupel split for the top job at Central Florida, Barry Odom handed Mizzou’s play-calling duties to tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley. Odom hasn’t decided on Heupel’s full-time replacement, and Wednesday’s game could serve as an audition for Finley — not just at Missouri but for other jobs that could come calling. “I’ve enjoyed (running the offense), and obviously it’s going to help me in the future,” Finley said. But will he be up for the job against live competition in a bowl game? Odom and Finley have said they won’t stray from the system that led the SEC in total offense each of the last two regular seasons — but in the last three weeks Finley had time to add some wrinkles.
3. Both Texas QBs will play
On the other side, Texas wasn't even sure who it would start at quarterback until earlier this week. Sophomore Shane Buechele will get the nod over freshman Sam Ehlinger in this one. But both will play.
"Neither of these quarterbacks have done anything so egregious that you could say one guy is behind the other one. But neither of them have anything really to take the bull by the horns," Herman said. "I think the decision to start Shane is just, we didn't play well at that position in the last game."
As I wrote a few days ago, there isn’t a ton of difference between the two, but Buechele has been a bit more effective as a runner and is more content to throw short and keep the ball moving forward. If Texas is able to get ahead, the Horns would probably be well-served to lean on him. Ehlinger, meanwhile, has been more of a big-play guy, and if the Horns are behind (here’s to hoping), it might be good to give him a bigger go.
4. A.J. Harris is out for a while
Mizzou backup OL AJ Harris suffered a serious knee injury during a practice here in Houston.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) December 26, 2017
The former four-star recruit has been snake-bitten in his Mizzou career so far. He’s battled injuries and wasn’t able to fend off a couple of younger guys (namely Trystan Castillo and Tre’Vour Simms) on the depth chart. And now it sounds like he’ll be rehabbing instead of proving himself in spring football. Damn shame.
5. A point of pride
Marcell Frazier makes a pretty good point: as down as these programs may be (and as depleted as Texas’ depth chart may be), Mizzou has a chance to go 3-0 this year against teams that have combined for four national titles in the last 20 years.
“I think it looks good on paper, beating a UT brand, beating Florida, beating Tennessee all in the same year,” Frazier said. “Historically they’re not having amazing years, but … it might be a pride thing. Maybe I can tell my kids, ‘I beat Texas, Florida and Tennessee in the same year.’”
7. More Links
- “When he first got to Mizzou, you couldn’t get him to shut up about all the great things he was going to do.” Fun KC Star profile of J’Mon Moore. And here’s a lovely Simms profile from the Star as well.
- If it’s a “Who wants to be here?” battle, this Q&A with a Texas beat writer suggests Missouri might have an advantage.
- If you’re curious, here’s Burnt Orange Nation’s Mizzou preview. They do a good job over there.