There’s an old saying amongst football coaches, “If you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’ve got none.” Most times this is probably true because it’s hard to balance the egos and preparation of multiple guys to play under center, but for the Missouri Tigers in 2021 that might not be the case.
If Connor Bazelak is unable to go again on Saturday, the Tigers will once again be presented with a situation of who to play, Brady Cook or Tyler Macon? Last week, Eli Drinkwitz elected to give both guys a chance and after the game said, “[I was] just trying to see if one of them could spark us and sustain it,” with regard to finding out who his number two quarterback is.
After the game, Drinkwitz did say he saw some positives from both players. “I think we felt like going into the Georgia game adding an extra runner into the game with Tyler [Macon] would be beneficial. I think he showed, especially early in that game, first two drives, why that was the case,” he said. “Brady [Cook] does some other things in the pass game, reading coverages and some of that stuff. Once we got into a game and we knew we needed to throw the ball that was gonna be something that had to be played into.”
At the end of the day, neither player did enough to impress Drinkwitz and give a good argument as to why they should be the guy, and both made freshman mistakes that Drinkwitz was less than impressed with, “The second drive of the game on a third and two we had a busted play that just can’t happen in that situation,” he explained, “The next drive on a third and two we had a penalty that can’t happen. We scrambled and end up, I wouldn’t say diving, but fell short by a yard at the quarterback position. Those things just can’t happen in order for us, against a quality opponent.”
One thing Drinkwitz did make clear is that both Cook and Macon bring different elements to the offense and affect his decisions as a play caller, “Everybody has different strengths, and for me as a play caller, I’m trying to attack a defense, so it’s really no different than how we utilize our routes or our running backs. It’s okay, he’s better at this, so let’s put him in on this play that attacks that defense.”
While talking about these adjustments he makes regarding who’s under center, Drinkwitz referred to it as one of the difficulties to managing a two quarterback system, but what if it doesn’t have to be a difficulty and can be an area of strength for the Tigers on their quest to make a bowl game?
Now, I’m not a football coach and would never claim to know more than Eli Drinkwitz, but he and I agree on one thing: Missouri doesn’t have one guy they can lean on under center to lead this team right now. However, they also aren’t forced to rely on just one guy either.
Having both Macon and Cook gives the Tigers two young, extremely incomplete quarterbacks, but together, I believe they can combine to be what the Tigers need under center as they finish out their schedule.
Macon is very clearly a runner. He gives the defense lots to think about in terms of designed quarterback runs, and in the closing moments against Georgia he demonstrated, at least somewhat, that he is able to throw the balls up to his receivers when needed. By having a running quarterback, the defense will also have to devote some level of focus to away from Tyler Badie onto Macon opening up running lanes for Badie as well.
Likewise, Brady Cook offers a different look. He can nickel and dime his way down the field, and showed last week that when he needs to scramble he can. Multiple times last week he led gritty drives to get the Tigers in scoring position against the best scoring defense college football has seen in sometime, and that has to be commended.
Maybe if the Tigers only had one of these guys they’d be really forced into a box. Defenses could prepare all week for zone read looks from Macon and bottle up the true freshman, or they could emphasize tons of press coverage to really cut down Cook’s throwing lanes. But, preparing for both is a whole lot harder.
By utilizing Macon’s and Cook’s individual strengths the Tigers can diversify their offense and give defenses much more to think about. Not having your starting quarterback and having a freshman backup is never ideal, but with the current state of affairs for the Tigers, Eli Drinkwitz might just be able to push all the right buttons to utilize the unique versatility his quarterback room possesses.