Missouri’s been blessed with a nice run of quarterbacks over the last two decades. It started with Brad Smith, continued with Chase Daniel, and then ultimately transitioned through Blaine Gabbert, James Franklin, Maty Mauk and Drew Lock. Last year was a bit of a transition. It appears Missouri has its mojo back at the most important position in the sport.
Connor Bazelak is the real deal, folks. I know, I know. It’s less than four games of experience and closer to 2.5 or three games of actual playing time. I don’t care. Neither does former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Sometimes you don’t have to see much to know what you’re watching. And I’m confident based on what we’ve seen from Bazelak that he’s going to be a quality player.
Speaking of Murray, he’s willing to take that confidence a step further than I am.
The @SEC freshman of the week is @MizzouFootball QB Connor Bazelak, after leading the Tigers to a 45-41 upset win over LSU@aaronmurray11 has been extremely impressed by the redshirt freshman's level of play this season pic.twitter.com/CN06yxcBzA— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) October 13, 2020
I’m not willing to go that far. Not yet, at least. But I do think it’s fair to say that what we’ve seen from Bazelak in the first three games of the season is enough to suggest he’s both the present and the future at quarterback.
So, what kind of player is he? Who does he remind us of? Let’s compare some of his best qualities to recent Missouri quarterbacks.
1) Accuracy - Chase Daniel
I know, I know. What are you doing, BK? Comparing someone to Chase Daniel?! Well, who else am I going to compare him to? The final stat sheet against Tennessee said Bazelak finished 13-for-21 with 218 passing yards. But that wasn’t an accurate reflection of how he played. If you add in yards that should have been gained if not for drops and assume the receiver would have gone down the moment he caught the ball, Bazelak’s stat line bumps to 17-for-21 for 285 yards. Against LSU he finished the day 29-for-34 for 406 yards and four touchdowns.
Looking back, this was probably the moment we should've known #Mizzou really had something in Connor Bazelak. Just perfect placement. pic.twitter.com/AAcy4Eo7gu— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 15, 2020
In the last two weeks - if you include the dropped passes - Bazelak would be 46-for-55 (84 percent) for 691 yards (12.5 yards per attempt), four touchdowns and one interception. That’s remarkable. And he’s not doing it against Delaware State or Southeast Louisiana State. He did it against Tennessee and LSU.
2) Arm strength - Maty Mauk
For all of Mauk’s faults - and there were plenty - he never lacked arm strength (as he hurled a fourth interception into a defender’s hands). Bazelak has a really good arm, but probably not an elite arm. He’s shown the ability to consistently throw the ball 50 yards in the air. That’s plenty! But he doesn’t have the same zip on it that Daniel did, and he doesn’t have the cannon Lock did.
Connor Bazelak flings this 45 yards in the air on the flea flicker. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/QL4u3ET3I1— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 15, 2020
Bazelak can make just about any throw Mizzou would ask him to make. He just might not have quite the same zip on it that some of the strongest arms in the country would have. That’s no shot at Bazelak. He has more than enough arm to get by.
3) Temperament - James Franklin
Bazelak is calm, cool and collected at all times, much like Franklin was. He’s not overly excitable. His touchdown “celebration” is him modestly jogging down the field and occasionally raising his hands above his head.
I still can't believe Connor Bazelak was able to make a positive play out of this. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/XJBj2zaYAt— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 16, 2020
He’s twice had his center snap the ball early, and both times he’s calmly collected the ball in order to avoid disaster. Against Tennessee he was able to make something out of nothing. Against LSU he threw the ball away and lived to see another down.
4) Athleticism - N/A
So, this is where things go down a different path. There’s no real comparison athletically for Bazelak. He’s certainly not on the level of Smith. He doesn’t compare to Lock. Daniel and Gabbert were both more impressive with their feet than fans might remember. Bazelak hasn’t really shown that portion of his game.
Love this play from Bazelak on 3rd down. Feels the rush coming up field, ducks underneath and throws off platform to pick up the first down on 3rd & 6. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/UC1pbBqtQE— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 15, 2020
If there’s a flaw that we’ve seen thus far, it might be his mobility. He can scramble, but he’s not exactly a runner. That’s not a huge issue, but it’s something that does differentiate him from previous Missouri quarterbacks.
Bazelak is going to be a heck of a lot of fun for years to come. He’s already getting praise from national analysts like Aaron Murray that he’s among the most gifted quarterbacks in the conference. He’s earned his role as the Tigers present and future at the position. He started shaping how he’ll be remembered with his first massive victory against LSU. I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next.