Welcome to Editorial Bored, a weekly Rock M Nation roundtable getting you through the desert of summer by looking ahead to the coming year in Mizzou Sports.
There are a few positions of concern on the Missouri depth chart, but QB isn’t one of them — Kelly Bryant has been the starter from commitment day. But there are several contenders for the backup position, including heir apparent Shawn Robinson. Who do you think will come away with the job?
Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: This all depends on Shawn Robinson and whether his transfer waiver gets approved. If it does, he’s the backup — and hopefully doesn’t have to play more than four games. If it doesn’t, I think it ends up being Taylor Powell, who saw at least some game action last season. Neither Powell nor Lindsey Scott Jr. have really separated themselves from the pack, and Connor Bazelak will probably need more seasoning before he truly battles for the No. 2 spot. The race for this job won’t be pretty, but based on who’s eligible at this point, my pick is Powell.
Mitch Hill, Social Media Editor: Assuming he is cleared to play, I would expect Shawn Robinson would be the backup. However, I also think he would be a candidate to play 4 games and then red shirt that season just to give him a little bit longer in the Black and Gold. Couple that with the fact that there hopefully shouldn’t be a reason for a backup QB to play in more than 4 games, and Robinson feels like a solid fit here. Powell would be the backup after those 4 games are used by Robinson in my opinion. Now, this could all change based on Robinson’s eligibility because as we all know, this is the NCAA we are dealing with. Shawn Robinson seems like he is going to be the answer at QB after this season, so that is why I think if he can play, he will get those 4 games before red shirting.
Josh Matejka, Editor: The quarterback room is low-key one of the most fascinating aspects of this year’s team. Kelly Bryant, Lindsey Scott Jr., Taylor Powell, Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak is quite a collection of players... but only one has shown the ability to lead a Power 5 team to the heights Mizzou hopes to reach this year. I think we can almost automatically rule out Bazelak of this race. Odom and Co. will want him around for the long haul, and using his true freshman season for a red shirt will pay dividends down the road.
That leaves the incumbent backup, the hyped transfer and the relative unknown. If I had to do a makeshift power rankings, it would look a little like this.
- Shawn Robinson
- Lindsey Scott Jr.
- Taylor Powell
There are a lot of factors that go into this decision, the most important of which will be whether or not Robinson can secure an eligibility waiver. If he can, there’s a near 100 percent certainty that he gets snaps in up to 4 games. Otherwise, it seems like Scott has the upper hand. After a season in the doldrums of the depth chart, Scott stuck around and had the coaches singing his praises this spring. His style seems to mesh with the Kelly Bryant mode of play, meaning if (God forbid) Bryant were to miss time, Scott would be able to come in and run the offense with the fewest scheme changes.
The defense was regularly torched last fall before finding its footing late in the season. Which position group are you most confident in, and which makes you nervous?
Ryan Herrera: I’m not overly confident in any of the groups, but if I had to bet on one, I’m picking the one that has Cale Garrett. Terez Hall is a big loss for the linebacker unit, but Garrett has the ability to fill that hole — and then some. He’s coming off back-to-back 100-tackle seasons and has a ton of natural instinct. The Tigers have had trouble pressuring the quarterback lately, but if they can turn that around this season, Garrett is going to be a big part of it.
But which group makes me nervous? *Cracks beer, takes a drink and sighs* It’s got to be the secondary. The only big loss for the group was Cam Hilton at safety, but that just means we’ll be dealing with mostly the same unit that let David Blough throw for 572 yards. I know Missouri lost eventual second team All-SEC corner DeMarkus Acy on the first defensive play of that game, but really, the secondary was suspect all season. It’ll probably be Acy and Christian Holmes starting at cornerback, and guys like Ronnell Perkins, Joshuah Bledsoe, Tyree Gillespie and Khalil Oliver will all be in the mix again at safety. Continuity usually ends up being a good thing, but with this group of returners, I’ll need to see growth on the field before I get my hopes up.
Mitch Hill: The one that makes me the most nervous is the defensive line. I think getting more pressure from the edges on the quarterback is key to making sure the rest of the defense looks better. There were times last year where it felt like the QB had all day back there, and when that happens, your defensive backs and linebackers in coverage are going to get beat. Putting pressure on the QB will help stop those big plays over the top.
The one I am most confident in would be the linebackers, mainly because of Cale Garrett. He appears to be everywhere on the field at all times, so with him I know what I am getting.
Josh Matejka: The defensive line went MIA quite a few times last season, and there’s little in the way of on-field evidence to believe they’ll up their impact this year. Jordan Elliot seems like he could become a real force in the middle, but as we learned with TBJ, one good lineman does not make a good line. If the line wants to make a noticeable impact, someone — Akial Byers? Sci Martin? Antar Thompson? — will need to have a breakout year.
As for the other two groups: one has the most dependable player while the other has more overall talent. I’ll take the latter — or, to be more concise, the secondary. No, wait, you have to hear me out here! Don’t you click away!
DeMarkus Acy has garnered an unfair reputation in his time at Mizzou, mostly due to a handful of bad games. However, he’s an All SEC caliber talent. Along with Christian Holmes (who may quietly be just as talented), stalwart safeties Khalil Oliver and Tyree Gillespie and youngsters like Jarvis Ware and Jalani Williams, the secondary should be stacked with guys who can shut down the opposing receivers... especially if they get help up front.
On the offensive side of the ball, offensive line and running back are set, but the receivers contain a litany of questions. What does a successful Tiger receiving corps look like in the coming year?
Ryan Herrera: Johnathon Johnson is the go-to guy in the slot. He’s the most proven returning receiver, regardless of some dropped passes that made us cringe last season. Out wide, I think you see Jalen Knox and Jonathan Nance, with Kam Scott getting a good amount of snaps. Dominic Gicinto and Barrett Banister also showed promise last season, so they should see steady playing time, too. Losing Emanuel Hall is tough, but this could be a quietly deep group of receivers.
And if all else fails, there’s still Albert Okwuegbunam to throw to.
Mitch Hill: Last year, it was no secret that when Emanuel Hall was out, Lock was a different QB. Who becomes that guy for KB? I think a successful receiving corp looks like Johnathon Johnson dominating in the slot with Jonathan Nance on one side and then Kam Scott/Jalen Knox taking the next step on the other. Nance is the biggest question mark to me —I know the talent is there, but I haven’t seen enough of him to be sure.
I am weirdly excited about seeing if Micah Wilson can do anything as a receiver this year. He is a freak athlete, so if that translates to WR, he could be a nice bonus. Outside of that, I think your main contributors will be Nance, JJ, Scott, and Knox. That’s a lot of fun to think about from a potential standpoint.
Josh Matejka: PUT. SOME. RESPECT. ON. JOHNATHON. JOHNSON’S. NAME.
Seriously, though, JJ has been one of the more underappreciated Tiger talents of the past 10 years, and his contributions will be massive in the coming season. His lightning speed could enable him to break loose when Kelly Bryant is making plays with his legs, and the ensuing broken coverages could lead to some highlight reel touchdown scrambles.
The rest of the corps is tantalizing from a potential standpoint... but will it translate to on-field production? A successful 2019 will mean at least two of these three — Jonathan Nance, Jalen Knox, Kam Scott — become credible outside threats and another slot receiver — Dominic Gicinto and Barrett Bannister fans, stand up — can pick up the slack when JJ is swallowed up in coverage. With two talented tight ends and Tyler Badie coming out of the backfield, Kelly Bryant won’t have a shortage of targets. But taking the top off the defense is a necessary component of any dangerous offense, so it’ll be up to Nance, Knox and Scott to find a way to get open.