Whether you want to accept it or not Mizzou fans, the Tigers sit at 2-3 and 0-2 in conference play heading into homecoming week. North Texas is an expected win (although I hesitate to even say that), but after that a gauntlet of SEC games ensues, including Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida, and Arkansas, all of which are ranked teams.
The mood surrounding this team is that of disappointment and frustration right now, as the defense can not seem to stop a toddler running through the line and the offense keeps shooting themselves in the foot.
However, on this dreary weekend, let us try to focus on some positives. And with the special teams, there are plenty of them.
Both Harrison Mevis and Grant McKinniss were named to preseason watch lists for their positions, the Lou Groza Award (kickers) and the Ray Guy Award (punters). They have shown why in every game this season.
We all saw Mevis’ 56-yard bomb of a kick that coldly tied the score as time expired against Boston College just last week. Mevis is 6/6 (5 of which were from beyond 40 yards) on field goals and 23/23 on extra points, all the while exuding immense confidence. The sophomore has only missed three kicks in his short career and firmly believes he can make a kick from any spot on the field.
Mevis has a legitimate claim to be labeled as the best kicker in the country, and Mizzou is fortunate to have a guy that they can put out there and have little worry about him missing from anywhere.
But wait, there’s more. Grant McKinniss transferred from Kentucky to Mizzou in 2020, and he has made an instant impact. He averaged 43 yards per punt that season, and is currently on pace to eclipse that number in 2021. He has also has had four punts go for over 50 yards thus far.
However, what the super senior has excelled at this season has been placement. McKinniss has pinned the opposing offense inside their own 20-yard line 13 times this year, consistently allowing Mizzou to win the field position battle and putting the opposing offense at a disadvantage.
You would be hard-pressed to find a kicking tandem that can compare to the Mevis and McKinniss show.
On top of that, Sean Koetting has gone 30/33 on touchbacks this season, not allowing any explosive returns.
If the return game begins to take off, then the Tigers will have a great claim to have the premiere special teams unit in the nation. Di’onte Smith has struggled in punt return, but Kris Abrams-Draine has quietly emerged as a dangerous kick return man. He has 291 return yards this season on a 26.45 average. His 100-yard touchdown return against Tennessee on Saturday was electric and may be a sign of things to come.
So, while there is plenty of reason for people to be upset with this team, you have to remember some of the positives. The Tigers lay claim to some of the best special teams players in the nation, although some fans may be willing to trade them for some elite defensive linemen/linebackers.