- What: Mizzou’s annual Black & Gold spring football game
- When: 12:00 p.m. CT
- Where: Faurot Field
- Admission: free
- TV: SEC Network (I’m assuming it will be available for streaming via WatchESPN as well)
- Weather Forecast: windy, but not completely terrible
Spring games are nothing if not misleading.
Two years ago, redshirt freshman T.J. Warren started Mizzou’s Black & Gold Game at cornerback and fared pretty well, leading us to believe the Tigers had a potential four-year starter on the perimeter. A year later, he was a backup outside linebacker. Now he’s transferred.
Last year, backup QB Jack Lowary drastically outplayed Micah Wilson, completing seven of 11 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns and leading us to believe we knew who Drew Lock’s backup would be. It turned out to be Wilson.
The spring game is one of many practices during spring ball — the only one we’re all allowed to come and watch — and it’s defined as much by what the coaches want us to see as what we’ll actually see a few months later in the fall. So tweak your expectations accordingly.
With expectations properly tweaked, here are the three things I’m most curious about for today’s scrimmage:
1. What does Derek Dooley want to show us?
Today isn’t going to tell us just a lot about Mizzou’s 2018 offense.
- The first-stringers will likely spend most of their time going up against the second-string defense.
- The touch rule is in place for the QB.
- The first-stringers won’t play all that much.
- We’ll be trying to learn something about newcomers while said newcomers play with mostly walk-ons on the third string.
- Et cetera.
We will learn one thing, however: we’ll learn what Mizzou’s new offensive coordinator wants to show us.
What identity will Mizzou project in Dooley’s first public play-calling performance? Will the Tigers come out slinging the ball around? And to whom? (My prediction: the tight ends get a lot of play today.) Is Mizzou going to try to establish a nice, physical ground game? How many deep balls? Any trick plays? If nothing else, this is an opportunity to learn a bit about Dooley’s, and therefore the Mizzou offense’s, personality and intent. So let’s see what they tell us.
2. Who’s lining up at defensive end?
Here’s the official pre-spring depth chart at defensive end:
- First string: Tre Williams (So.), Chris Turner (So.)
- Second string: Nate Anderson (Sr.), Franklin Agbasimere (Jr.)
- Third string: Chris Williams (walk-on), Macaulay Keevins (walk-on)
There are only four scholarship players on that list — signees Daniel Parker Jr., Jatorian Hansford, and Trajan Jeffcoat will arrive this summer — and the most proven among them (Tre Williams) is out with injury.
First, that means a bounty of opportunity for Turner and Anderson, two 2017 signees who saw quite a bit of the field last fall as backups and ended up with a combined 11.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. If one of them were to have a nice scrimmage, that would certainly build up a sense of optimism for a thin position.
But from everything we’ve heard this spring, they’re not going to be the only ones lining up at end. The cup overflows for Mizzou at tackle — while there were only four scholarship ends listed on the pre-spring depth chart, there were 10 such tackles — and with the Tigers supposedly prepared to go with more 3-4 personnel at times this year, that could mean opportunities for some of the quicker tackles to line up on the outside.
Caleb Sampson ... Akial Byers ... Jordan Elliott ... Markell Utsey ... hell, maybe Terry Beckner Jr. Who lines up where, and how frequently?
3. How are the safeties doing?
With Anthony Sherrils gone and Kaleb Prewett’s status remaining uncertain — after his pre-spring suspension, the tea leaves were very much saying he was gone for good, but now that seems less certain — Mizzou is without last year’s two steadiest options at safety. Plenty of guys have seen the field, of course, but it’s impossible to figure out if the Tigers are fine in the back, or if they were only fine as long as Sherrils and Prewett were back there.
Senior-to-be Cam Hilton and junior Ronnell Perkins began the spring on the first string with sophomores Tyree Gillespie and Jordan Ulmer as backups and sophomore Joshuah Bledsoe floating between safety and nickel/OLB. Who’s lining up with the first-stringers now? Second-stringers? And more importantly, how are they playing?
The cornerback position was a volatile one for Mizzou last year, but things settled down over the last half of the season with corners Adam Sparks and DeMarkus Acy gaining traction while Sherrils and Prewett held things down at the back. Sparks, Acy, and injured-in-2017 Christian Holmes are all back, so theoretically Mizzou’s in pretty good shape at corner. But shaky safety play dooms everything. We might get at least a taste of how worried we should be today.