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Roster Reset: Connor Bazelak is ready for his encore

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Mizzou returns its 2020 starter and adds a talented 2021 commit to the most important position on the field.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 29 Missouri at Arkansas Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 gone and who the Tigers added since the end of the 2020 season.

There’s really no better place to start than the quarterback position.

Quarterback Reset:

Returning:

  • Connor Bazelak (Sophomore)
  • Brady Cook (Freshman)

Arriving:

Returning Player Analysis:

Bazelak is the odds-on favorite to start and end the spring as the Tigers’ starter. You don’t have to take my word for it. Eli Drinkwitz more or less confirmed as much recently on a St. Louis radio appearance.

That’s... Pretty convincing. And it’s for good reason. Bazelak was a solid starter last season. He completed more than 67 percent of his passes for nearly 2,400 yards (7.3 yards per attempt), nine total touchdowns and six interceptions.

Those numbers aren’t going to blow you away. But they were enough to lead the Tigers to a 5-5 overall record and he stepped up in a big way against LSU and Arkansas, in particular.

There are certainly areas of Bazelak’s game that need to improve. His deep passing game has to take a step forward. He completed just 12 of 44 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, according to SECStatCat. It’s nice to see he has the willingness to throw it deep. But the Tigers need to start connecting on more of those deep shots. That’s something I would imagine he and Drinkwitz will focus on in spring ball.

And then there’s Cook. I have no idea what to make of Cook. He’s an interesting enough prospect who had some success in his limited opportunities spelling Bazelak last season. But it seems like the most likely outcome at Mizzou is for Cook to spend the coming years as a backup. Is he okay with that? It’s hard to say. For the time being, he’s a nice player to have in the room with Bazelak and Macon.

New Arrival to Keep an Eye on:

Macon is the obvious (and, well, the only) answer. The former East St. Louis star is skipping his senior season as an early enrollee. He’s eligible to participate in spring ball, and would probably be the most watched backup on the team if these workouts were open to the public.

The excitement around Macon is palpable. And it’s deserved. He joins Drew Lock, Tyler Gabbert, James Franklin, Blane Gabbert and Chase Patton (!!!) as 4-star quarterbacks to sign with the Tigers since Rivals started tracking recruiting.

Macon’s going to get his opportunity. He’s going to start for Mizzou eventually. I just don’t expect that to be this year. Drinkwitz’s comments on the PowerMizzou podcast recently seem to indicate he expects a bit of a learning curve for Macon.

“Tyler Macon is just trying to learn the offense,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s going to have a hard spring, just because of the nature of coming in as a true freshman, learning everything.”

That doesn’t mean Macon’s not worth keeping an eye on. He very well could start the year as the Tigers’ primary backup to Bazelak. Heck, he might even see some playing time this season. I just wouldn’t hold your breath that Macon will start the year as the starter.

Position Battle to Watch:

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’ll go ahead and do so now: I don’t think the Tigers have much of a starting quarterback battle going into spring ball. I do, however, think we could see a competition between Macon and Cook for the backup position.

I wouldn’t expect Macon to jump Cook in spring ball. That’s a tall task. Cook knows the system. Macon is about to learn it for the first time. But this is a position worth monitoring as we progress this summer and into the fall.

Bottom Line:

It’s a good Macon decided to enroll early, because the Tigers are scary thin at the position going into the spring. Bazelak is the clear-cut starter unless something drastically changes. Cook and Macon provide some intriguing depth going into the spring.

The big question is what kind of step Bazelak can take from year one to year two as the team’s starter. The running game is likely to take a step back with Larry Rountree no longer around. Can Bazelak take a big enough step forward to make up for that drop in rushing production? The answer to that question very well could be the key to the Tigers taking a step forward as an offense in 2021.