We never want to take too much from spring football practice, but I wanted to highlight a few players who did themselves some favors during Mizzou spring ball. Today, we’ll focus on the offense.
1. Emanuel Hall
Last seen dropping a long bomb against Arkansas, Hall had a relatively disappointing 2016 campaign. His season averages were quite good — 59 percent catch rate, 16.2 yards per catch, 50 percent success rate — but after catching 13 balls for 241 yards in the first four games of the year, he caught just six for 66 the rest of the way. Freshman Dimetrios Mason passed him on the totem pole and never looked back.
One way to get a reasonably bitter taste out of your mouth: kick butt in the spring game. Hall caught three passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, reeling in the same type of pass he dropped against the Hogs. Slate: clean.
2. Jack Lowary
If things go according to plan, Missouri fans will only see Lowary walk onto the field to take snaps at the end of blowout wins this fall. He should remain Drew Lock’s backup unless things skew far off-script.
That said, if you’re looking for reassurance that things won’t fall apart if Lock gets hurt or falls into a nasty slump, you got a little bit of it on Saturday. The spring game is just one small fraction of spring practice, but Lowary made the most of it. He threw the two touchdown passes to Hall and went 5-for-9 outside of those two throws. Granted, he also threw a pick, in all, this was a successful day at the office.
3. Jonah Dubinski
The pyramid for the Mizzou offensive line is basically two levels: tackles Paul Adams and Tyler Howell and guard Kevin Pendleton on the top level and about 10 different guys on the second level.
Seniors Alec Abeln and Adam Ploudre, juniors Sam Bailey and Kyle Mitchell, sophomores A.J. Harris, Yasir Durant, Tre'Vour Simms, and Jonah Dubinski, redshirt freshman Trystan Castillo, and freshman Pompey Coleman will all continue to battle to stand out heading into fall camp, and the separation between them doesn’t appear all that great.
In situations like these, I figure I’m not the only one who tends to assume that the scholarship players who either are more experienced or were most well-touted as recruits are the ones who will start to stand out over time. But that’s not the way it works, and it’s definitely not the way it worked for Jonah Dubinski, who started 2016 as a third-stringer but worked his way into the starting lineup ... and then started spring ball as a third-stringer but worked his way into the starting lineup.
“I play really smart, and I’m a consistent guy,” Dubinski said. “I’m not the biggest, I’m not the strongest, but I’m going to play hard every time. There’s still a lot of stuff I can get better at, but I’m going to be the same hard-working guy every day.”
I will now proceed to continue writing him off as he continues to occupy the first string.
4. Richaud Floyd
Ray Wingo caught five balls for 143 yards and two touchdowns last year, maximizing his impact with a tiny number of receptions. But four of those five catches came in the first two games; Richaud Floyd, meanwhile, bided his time and eased ahead of Wingo in the receiving corps later in the year. He himself only caught four balls for 94, but they each came in the last eight games. And there he was on Saturday, leading the way with four catches.
The slot position has massive potential for Missouri moving forward; despite three of four main slot guys being redshirt freshmen a year ago (Johnathon Johnson, Wingo, and Floyd, along with senior Chris Black), the foursome combined to catch 50 of 85 passes for 929 yards and five touchdowns last year. Black’s gone, which opens up at least a little bit of opportunity for either Floyd or Wingo. Wingo began spring ball in the No. 2 spot behind Johnson, but Floyd was more of a standout on Saturday.
5. Dawson Downing
Yes, of course. I cannot imagine he sees much of the field this fall, but crazier things have happened.
Walk on RB Dawson Downing with a big run, followed by a goal line touchdown in Missouri's Spring Game pic.twitter.com/EaOMhdByXy— ZouGifs (@ZouCast) April 16, 2017
This type of post is ripe for a “WINNERS AND LOSERS” format, but that’s not really my style. Instead, here are a few guys who didn’t seem to take full advantage of their opportunities, either because of poor performance or poor luck (or both).
- Nate Strong. He spent part of spring suspended, which is frustrating, and he was the least effective of Missouri’s three primary running backs (Downing, Strong, Isaiah Miller) in the spring game. The backfield’s about to get even more crowded with the addition of February signee Larry Rountree; can Strong continue to stake his claim to some playing time?
- Nate Brown. After missing 2016 with an ankle injury, Brown was the source of quite a few “He’s back and ready to prove himself!” pieces. He then proceeded to injure his shoulder in late-March and miss the rest of spring ball.
- Justin Smith. The lanky 6’7 receiver made a lot of waves in practice in 2015 and 2016 but battled injury and blended into the background last fall. I’m not going to pretend to know how he practiced this spring, but while others seemed to step up, his name wasn’t heard from that much. He might have some more catching up to do in fall camp.
- A.J. Harris. It might be unfair, but when you’re the most highly-touted recruit in your given unit, a certain level is expected. But due at least in part to injury, Harris hasn’t been able to establish himself or insert himself into any starting battles yet. Of course, he’s still just a sophomore. He’s got time.