In a season full of disappointment for Missouri, it’s hard to find many positives.
A promising 5-1 start turned into a lousy 6-6 record. The Tigers suffered numerous punches to the gut due to injuries to important starters, including Cale Garrett, Kelly Bryant, Johnathon Johnson, DeMarkus Acy and Albert Okwuegbunam. The offensive line regressed significantly from a season ago.
But one of the main culprits to Missouri’s second-half demise was the play (or lack thereof) of the receiving corps.
The entire unit struggled once the schedule reached Southeastern Conference play. When Bryant’s hamstring injury hurt his ability to run and forced him to rely on his receivers, it seemed as if none of them could get open. Most things went wrong for the Tigers in the second half of the season, but the downfall of the receivers was one of the most glaring.
But it wasn’t all bad in the receiving corps, as Barrett Banister emerged as Missouri’s most reliable option in the receiving game after the best performance of his career in Friday’s 24-14 win over Arkansas.
On the Tigers’ first drive of the game, Connor Bazelak — the freshman quarterback making his first career start — made it a point to target Banister. As Missouri moved the ball down the field, Bazelak hit Banister four times for 39 yards, with three of those being huge third down catches. Banister made two more catches in the half, a 17-yarder from Bazelak and a 4-yarder from Taylor Powell, who replaced Bazelak in the second quarter after the latter left due to injury.
Though he wasn’t involved much in the second half due to the Tigers emphasizing the run, Banister’s performance was arguably the biggest factor in giving Missouri its first halftime lead since Homecoming on Oct. 12 against Ole Miss.
It was quite the performance for Banister, who might not have been in the position he was Friday if not for Powell. When Powell, Banister’s teammate at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, Arkansas (the home of the Razorbacks), committed to the Tigers, he also passed on Banister’s name. Banister had not received a Division I scholarship offer (which he ultimately wouldn’t get), but head coach Barry Odom was impressed enough by his film to offer a spot as a preferred walk-on.
Banister accepted the offer, redshirted his freshman year in 2017 and then came up big down the stretch in 2018, ultimately finishing the season with eight receptions for 88 yards.
Though the DI scholarship was his goal, his failure to secure one out of high school never affected his confidence or work ethic. And then, prior to this past offseason of spring ball, Odom met with Banister. In a moment two years in the making, Odom finally offered Banister the scholarship he’d dreamed of.
And Banister hasn’t let him down since.
Over the course of the 2019 season, Banister hauled in 27 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown. While the offense struggled, Banister stayed mostly consistent, making at least one reception in nine of the team’s 12 games.
When starting slot receiver Johnathon Johnson went down a few weeks ago, Banister was thrust into the starting role. Some players in their first year on scholarship might let the weight of the moment get to them.
But not Banister.
Even without Johnson, Banister wanted to show the entire Missouri football program that it was still set, for this season and for the next few years to come.