Missouri’s spring football session has carried with it the least possible amount of fanfare. Basketball has been the primary reason for this — Tiger fans actually have something to be excited about for the first time in a while, and the steady trickle of recruiting news has sucked up a lot of oxygen.
Regardless of how much we have or haven’t been paying attention, though, the 2017 Black & Gold Game kicks off this Saturday in what will apparently be hot, windy conditions.
Of the pressing questions Missouri fans might have heading into the fall, only a few of them can be at least partially answered on Saturday.
- Drew Lock has to prove that he can raise his game against better competition, but spoiler alert: He’s probably going to look pretty good in the “don’t touch me” green jersey against Mizzou’s second-string defense.
- Mizzou has a lot of questions to answer at defensive tackle, but between players returning from injury and players who aren’t on campus yet, we’re not going to see much of an answer on Saturday.
- The pass rush has something to prove after struggling in 2016, then losing Charles Harris. But with touch rules applying to QBs, we aren’t going to see all we need to see there. (But if they wanted to record some touch sacks, that’d be fine.)
- Tucker McCann has to prove he can reliably and accurately kick a field goal in front of 50,000+ people, but there won’t be 50,000+ there on Saturday.
That said, here are the questions I’ll be asking on Saturday, questions for which we might get at least a partial answer.
1. How do DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes look?
2. What is Mizzou doing with the nickel back?
Back in March, I talked about how important it is for sophomores Acy and Holmes to step up in the Mizzou defensive backfield and asked you who you thought would be starting in the secondary this fall.
Acy got 62% of the vote as No. 1 cornerback, and Holmes barely beat out Logan Cheadle by 2 percent for the No. 2 spot. At safety, Cam Hilton and Anthony Sherrils got the most votes, and TJ Warren nudged out the field for first-string nickelback.
Since the survey, Kansas State transfer Kaleb Prewett's name has emerged at nickel.
Not that you can glean too much from one game — a scrimmage in which Mizzou coaches will be trying to show as little as possible, no less — but how do Acy, Holmes, and Cheadle look against Mizzou’s receivers? Who stands out? And how frequently are Prewett, Warren, or anyone else lining up as nickel instead of a third linebacker? The nickel has been a key position for Mizzou through the years, and the hire of an outside linebackers coach in Brian Odom suggests the Tigers have interesting things planned here.
The answers, of course, might be misleading; Warren, after all, started at cornerback in last year’s spring game and then never started there in the fall. But they’ll be at least semi-formed answers. That’s something.
3. Which second-string receivers look the best?
It’s easy to assume that J’Mon Moore, Dimetrios Mason, and Johnathon Johnson will be the first-string receivers, both on Saturday and into fall camp. And with Mason and Johnson both sophomores and Moore having battled inconsistency throughout his career, you could say that this trio still has lots to prove.
For this game, though, I’m much more interested in the next layer of names: 2015 starter Nate Brown, Emanuel Hall, Ray Wingo, Richaud Floyd, Justin Smith, Dominic Collins. Who’s getting more reps? Who’s taking advantage of them?
Honestly, it’s the same story at tight end — with Kendall Blanton out, Jason Reese is the obvious first-stringer, but we already know his story to some degree. How’s Brendan Scales looking? What about Albert Okwuegbunam, who’s been hindered by a hamstring injury?
4. Who’s on the first-string offensive line?
Mizzou is pretty much set at offensive tackle, with Paul Adams and Tyler Howell anchoring the right and left sides, respectively. But the interior is a little bit messy. We can assume that Kevin Pendleton is your starting left guard, but who’s getting more first-string reps at center — Samson Bailey or Alec Abeln? Are either taking reps as first string right guard? Is Adam Ploudre holding off Abeln, Tre’Vour Simms, etc.? Mizzou boasts infinitely more experience up front than it did a year ago and returns seven players with starting experience. But that doesn’t mean that the lineup is settled.
5. How does Isaiah Miller look?
Honestly, the fifth question should be in regard to the backup quarterbacks — who looks better between redshirt freshman Micah Wilson and junior Jack Lowary. But that’s too obvious.
Instead, I’m going to be watching Isaiah Miller pretty closely. With Damarea Crockett, Ish Witter, and back-from-suspension Nate Strong all on the three-deep, it would seem that opportunity is limited. But we’ve heard very good things about Miller, and the rumbles are that either Miller or Larry Rountree III could end up avoiding a redshirt this fall. Rountree’s not on campus yet, but Miller is. How ready does he look?
What question are you most hoping to get answers from in Saturday’s Black & Gold Game?
This poll is closed
Who are the top cornerbacks?
How is Mizzou using the nickel back?
How deep is Mizzou’s receiving corps this year?
Who’s starting up front?
How does Isaiah Miller look?
Okay, fine: How do Micah Wilson and/or Jack Lowary look?