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.
Tight End Reset:
- Daniel Parker Jr. (Junior)
- Logan Christopherson (Junior)
- Niko Hea (Sophomore)
- Messiah Swinson (Sophomore)
Returning Player Analysis:
Eli Drinkwitz said early in his tenure as Missouri’s head coach that he would use tight ends in multiple ways. He wasn’t kidding. Parker, Christopherson, Hea and Swinson all saw extended playing time in Drink’s first season at Mizzou. All four have very different skill sets, and each of them had a ‘moment’ at one point during the season.
By the end of the season, though, it seemed like the Tigers settled on Parker and Hea as the top two options at the position. Hea led the tight ends with 14 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Parker was the primary blocking tight end. It wasn’t uncommon to see both on the field at the same time. Drinkwitz finished the year using multiple tight ends roughly 25 percent of the time, according to SEC Stat Cat.
There’s reason to believe the tight ends could be even more productive in 2021. Parker is an NFL talent playing on Saturdays. Mizzou tight ends coach Casey Woods was on the PowerMizzou podcast recently, and he spoke glowingly about what Parker brings to the table.
“Daniel brings an elite skill set,” Woods said. “There are very few people who can do the things he does. I would put him up against any blocking tight end in the SEC.”
The play that stands out when you think about Parker is when he blocked multiple defenders on one play against Arkansas.
“When you see him go in the draft here in a few years, that’ll be the highlight they show,” Woods told PowerMizzou.
Daniel Parker blocking everyone pic.twitter.com/oYD1vKjf3R— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) December 5, 2020
Parker’s blocking ability, Hea’s ability around the goal line and the intriguing talent in Christopherson and Swinson should have Mizzou fans excited about what this position group can produce in 2021.
New Arrival to Keep an Eye on:
Oh, boy, if you read my recap of Mizzou’s 2021 recruiting class then you already know how excited I am to watch Hoerstkamp. This kid has special talent. He’s big, strong and knows how to go up and compete for “50/50 balls.” Don’t take my word for it, take Nick Saban’s. Alabama offered Hoerstkamp shortly after he committed to the Tigers. Thankfully, he stuck with his pledge.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays right away. He’s that good.
McCay is a little bit different in that he’s talented, but his skill set might take a little longer to translate to the collegiate level. He’s a tremendous athlete who projects as more of a pass catching tight end. It might take some time for him to get on the field, but he has the potential to be another talented player at the position.
Position Battle to Watch:
Who will finish the spring as the number two tight end? That’s the battle worth watching. It would come as quite the shock if Parker doesn’t lead the position in snaps next season. But who will be behind him? Hea should probably enter camp as the favorite for that position, but I might have Hoerstkamp next on that list. Maybe that’s overly optimistic. But that’s what we do this time of year. Hope springs eternal!
The Tigers have a ton of talent at tight end that can be used in a variety of ways. The real question is who will be used, and when. Drinkwitz certainly had a good feel for when to call his shot with certain tight ends a year ago. I think we’ll see more of the same in 2021.
If I had to call my shot today, I would expect Parker to start the year as the “starting” tight end with Hoertkamp and Hea splitting reps as the “pass catching” tight end. Christopherson and Swinson will certainly get their fair share of reps, as well. It’s too bad playing time at tight end is so limited, because the Tigers certainly have plenty of options at the position.