I’m a planner. I like to know what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and what steps need to get done in order to complete the task. It’s something I think I have in common with Eli Drinkwitz.
I say that because Drinkwitz is starting to show us a pattern in the way he’s managed his roster. I don’t think he likes going into a season without a plan. Maybe the plan goes awry. That happened last year at defensive tackle when the Tigers had seemingly 27 players out for a variety of injuries and COVID issues.
Nothing you can do to prevent that. Sometimes you get hit with a string of bad luck.
What do you do when good luck still leaves you wanting more at a position? That’s the position Missouri found itself in this time last year at wide receiver. Drinkwitz addressed the problem by adding Keke Chism and Damon Hazelton via the transfer portal.
Neither Chism nor Hazelton were long-term answers at the position. Drinkwitz knew that. But he also knew he had a hole on the roster that needed to be filled. Chism and Hazelton both provided some certainty to a position that lacked many known commodities.
Drinkwitz found himself in a similar spot going into this offseason at linebacker when Nick Bolton officially announced his decision to declare early for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Sure, Chad Bailey has the pedigree. But we’ve hardly seen him play at this level. Jamal Brooks has shown flashes, but can he do it consistently? Cameron Wilkins saw time early in 2020 and late in 2019, but can he be an every down MIKE linebacker? Will Norris came in as a player who profiled as a thumper in the middle, but he’s just entering his second year on campus. Is he prepared to take on a significant role this quickly?
These are the questions facing Missouri’s coaching staff. It’s possible someone could emerge. Surprises happen. But hope is not a plan, and Drinkwitz is a man who clearly likes to have a plan.
This week, we saw the next step in that plan as Drinkwitz secured a commitment from former Rice linebacker Blaze Alldredge. I must admit, I had never heard of Alldredge prior to the news. That says more about me than it does about Alldredge. The young man has done nothing but produce from the moment he arrived on campus at Rice.
He’s a two-time First Team All Conference USA member. He racked up more than 200 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and six sacks in 28 games for the Owls.
The numbers don’t lie.
I went back and watched every snap Alldredge played against North Texas, UAB and Marshall. What I saw was a player who can make an immediate impact for the Tigers.
1) Alldredge is a playmaker
Alldredge always seems to find himself around the ball. He can play both the run and the pass. He played as an overhang, blitzed up the middle, played man coverage on running backs and tight ends, and showed an ability to drop into zone. He’s done it all, and he’s done it at a high level.
His best work comes when he’s able to quickly read and react to the play. He has a knack for shooting the gap and making plays in the backfield.
2) Alldredge is a capable pass rusher
One thing the Tigers are going to miss with Bolton heading to the NFL is Bolton’s ability to rush the passer as a blitzer. He really developed that area of his game this season. He was so good that there would be third down packages that had Bolton lining up outside as an overhang running a stunt with the defensive end.
Alldredge flashes some ability as a blitzer. Also spent some time on the edge as an overhang. pic.twitter.com/UztVyRLiNM— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) January 19, 2021
Alldredge can do some of that, too. He’s a more than capable blitzer. He doesn’t rush the passer with the same power that Bolton flashes, but he’s certainly good enough to get the job done.
3) Alldredge reminds me a bit of Michael Scherer
Scherer was never the biggest or the fastest guy on the field. He played his butt off and he got the job done. Were there moments when he was a liability in coverage? Sure. Did his speed leave a little something to be desired compared to some of the great modern Mizzou linebackers? Of course. But he was a heck of a player who got the job done.
One thing I noticed is Alldredge isn't going to 'wow' you with his speed. He still makes most of the plays that come his way, but quick QBs/RBs can beat him to the edge as you see here from North Texas' QB. pic.twitter.com/0LEgYbgBNL— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) January 19, 2021
That’s what Alldredge brings to the table. He’s not the fastest guy on the field and there are times when that lack of speed is going to show up as he tries to chase running backs down sideline to sideline. He’s going to have to work on disengaging from offensive linemen - especially in the SEC. I fully expect he’ll put on some more weight in Mizzou’s strength and conditioning program to help with that.
That being said, he’s a proven player who has done it at a high level against quality competition. You don’t become a two-time All Conference player at an FBS school by mistake.
The Tigers just plugged their biggest hole on the roster with a more than capable player, just as they did a year ago at receiver with Chism and Hazelton.