Welcome to the fear of the unknown, Mizzou fans.
This is not a unique position across college football. Dozens of programs every year go into the season without knowing who will be their starting quarterback. Heck, plenty of programs finish the season without really knowing who should be their starting quarterback.
Mizzou is different. For the last two decades, the Tigers have always had a plan.
It started with Brad Smith in 2002. He started as a redshirt freshman, and the Tigers knew they had a four-year starter on their hands.
But the work didn’t stop there. Gary Pinkel knew he had to plan for the future ahead of time.
In 2005, he did exactly that. Pinkel used every opportunity to get freshman Chase Daniel as many reps as possible. The results weren’t always great, but the process was sound. Pinkel knew Daniel would be the starter in 2006. He needed game reps in advance. And that’s exactly how it happened.
The Tigers transitioned from Smith to Daniel and the transition led to some of the best years in program history.
As Daniel’s final season approached, Pinkel went back to work. He signed a 5-star Blaine Gabbert in the 2008 class. While Gabbert didn’t get the same opportunities as a freshman as Daniel, he was seen as the heir apparent. The transfer of power was smooth once again.
History repeated itself again in 2010.
With Gabbert set to bolt for the NFL Draft, Pinkel went back to the recruiting trail, earning a commitment from 4-star quarterback James Franklin. Another year, another answer. Franklin saw time behind Gabbert in 2010. He took over in 2011.
The “transition year” became a common theme from there. Franklin and Maty Mauk split reps in 2013 before Mauk took over full-time in 2014. Drew Lock split time with Mauk in 2015 before officially taking over in 2016.
Pinkel always had a plan. The same wasn’t necessarily true under Barry Odom. The unease started to set in as Drew Lock entered his senior year in 2018.
That was the first time in nearly two decades the Tigers didn’t have their answer at QB for the following season. Odom avoided the crisis when he secured a commitment from Kelly Bryant.
That was a one-year answer. The question is once again relevant. The answer are fleeting.
Who is going to start at quarterback this season for the Tigers? We don’t know. Eli Drinkwitz isn’t going to give any hints. The anxiety is starting to build.
Maybe this isn’t going to be an issue. Someone could emerge. Maybe Connor Bazelak develops into a star. It’s possible Shawn Robinson spent the last year correcting some of the issues he had at TCU. Maybe it won’t matter and Eli Drinkwitz’s offense will create so many advantageous situations that it becomes hard for the quarterback to fail.
Okay, yeah, that last one might be a bridge too far.
This is uncharted water for Mizzou. Most college football fans have spent years preparing for moments like this. Many of the top programs in the country go into individual seasons without an answer at QB.
If you’re feeling uneasy about where the Tigers will turn, you’re not alone. Mizzou is about to play its toughest schedule in years without having an answer at quarterback for the first time in years.
That’s certainly not an ideal combination.
Here’s to hoping the Tigers find an answer by week one. It’s one thing to have a quarterback competition in the offseason. It’s another thing entirely to search for answers at the position once the season starts.
The Tigers have five weeks. The Tide awaits.