Ladies and gentlemen, it’s spring ball time!
Well, kind of.
Mizzou is scheduled to open up spring practice on February 28th. So, it’s close. Spring practice is slated to come to an end on March 26th. We’re still not sure when (if?) there will be a Black and Gold game this spring.
With spring practice only a few short weeks away, it’s time to take a look at who is back, who is leaving and who the Tigers have added since the end of the 2020 season.
Wide Receiver Reset:
- Keke Chism (Senior)
- Micah Wilson (Senior)
- Jalen Knox (Junior)
- Barrett Banister (Junior)
- D’ionte Smith (Junior)
- Tauskie Dove (Sophomore)
- Kris Abrams-Draine (Freshman)
- Chance Luper (Freshman)
- Jay Maclin (Freshman)
- Javian Hester (Freshman)
Returning Player Analysis:
The single most important commit for the Tigers was not anyone in the freshman class, but rather keeping Chism for another season. Chism had a slow start in his first three games of the season, but finished the year on a hot streak with 31 receptions for 394 yards and a touchdown in his final six games. I’m not sure there was a single Mizzou football player with more hype surrounding him coming out of fall camp. He made good on that hype down the stretch.
Chism isn’t the only productive receiver returning for the Tigers. They also keep Knox, Dove and Banister in the fold. All three had productive years in 2020.
Knox had a strange year in that he started hot, but seemed to fall out of favor as the season progressed. Dove had his breakout performance against LSU, and he might be the team’s best outside possession receiver heading into 2021. Banister was a third down machine.
The only Mizzou receivers who finished last season with at least one reception who will not return for 2021 are Dominic Gicinto (transfer) and Damon Hazelton (NFL Draft). Those two combined finished the 2020 season with 34 receptions for 449 yards and one touchdown.
New Arrival to Keep an Eye on:
There are only two players to choose from, and both have a chance to have an immediate impact.
Dominic Lovett is incredibly explosive. He has a chance to be an immediate contributor in specific ways, but it might take some time before he becomes an every down receiver. His biggest impact in 2021 might come on special teams as a punt returner.
Mookie Cooper is the player to watch. He was Rivals’ top rated athlete in the country coming out of Pattonville in 2020. He didn’t see the playing time he was expecting at Ohio State, and decided to transfer back home to Mizzou. How does he fit into Mizzou’s offense? It’s tough to say. His skill set is similar to Knox’s. He would be great on some of the end-around plays we know Eli Drinkwitz loves to use. He’s like a running back at receiver, so anything that gets him the ball in space will be useful. I think he’ll have an impact. It’s just hard to know how much before we see what he looks like at spring camp.
Position Battle to Watch:
I’m fascinated to see how the slot receiver position shakes itself out. Knox, Banister, Smith, Abrams-Draine, Luper, Maclin, Cooper and Lovett can all spend some time inside. Who wins the reps? That’s what spring camp is for.
I think we’ll see Knox prevail as the main slot receiver. He knows the offense. He had some success, especially early in the year. But don’t count out Cooper and Lovett. They’re both special talents. If they catch onto the offense early, they could mix in more than we expect.
Mizzou went into 2020 needing great years out of Chism and Hazelton for the Tigers to survive at receiver. That won’t be the case next year. There’s much more depth at the position, both proven and unproven.
Dove is a potential breakout candidate. Knox still has some untapped potential. Cooper and Lovett have ability the Tigers simply didn’t have outside a year ago. And the 2020 recruiting class was full of receivers capable of contributing.
Mizzou’s wide receivers finished last season with just five touchdown receptions. I don’t think we’ll see that again in 2021. The talent has improved and the explosiveness at the position has gone to another level. This should be music to Connor Bazelak’s ears.