Mizzou wrapped up spring football on Saturday with their annual spring game, which means it’s time to overanalyze everything about the 2021 Tigers with still over five months until their first official game.
Offensive Takeaways from the Game
- The faces on offense will be mostly familiar with the addition of Mookie Cooper. Cooper split time with veteran Barrett Banister in the slot.
- Tyler Badie and Elijah Young split time in the backfield but expect Badie to run the ball a lot more than he did last year. Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz loves to run outside zone and that caters to Badie’s running style while keeping the defense honest so he can leak out in passing situations.
- Connor Bazelak and Tauskie Dove seem like they have a special connection. Dove seems to always be open and Bazelak seems to always be able to find him.
- Most people are excited for Mookie Cooper joining this offense, but I think Dove and Chism will both have big years now that they have over a year of experience with Bazelak as their QB. Bazelak comfort and trust with both players was apparent in his throws.
- The line looked strong in the couple of series the 1s played, but seeing how they stand up to the SEC will only take time.
- Tyler Macon and Brady Cook are both very young and very raw. Neither looked all that comfortable in the pocket, but both showed flashes of what they can do. Macon’s running ability is something Tigers fans should be excited about, a possible goalline package with him running the option could find its way into the offense.
- Dominic Lovett, JJ Hester, Jay Maclin, Chance Luper, D’ionte Smtih, and Micah Wilson will all be battling it out for just a couple of regular spots on the field. It will be very interesting to see which ones get Drinkwitz’s favor. Lovett, the only freshman of those listed, has the most excitement from the fanbase, but don’t count out guys like JJ Hester or D’ionte Smith. Smith made a couple of great catches on Saturday, and earlier this week Drinkwitz mentioned that Hester likely would’ve gotten more looks last year if not for his toe injury that sidelined him for the season.
- Finishing drives is going to be the number one thing for this offense this year. Last year, they could just hand it to Larry three times, and the odds of him scoring were pretty good. However, this year they no longer have that luxury, and the offense stalled multiple times in the red zone on Saturday so that will be something to watch.
Defensive Takeaways from the Game
- Steve Wilks seems to have really gotten to these guys early. They were all flying to the ball, and Martez Manuel even called him “a defensive genius” after the game so it seems like the whole unit is bought into the new system.
- Wilks came to this program promising turnovers and twice on Saturday was the defense able to intercept a pass during the live scrimmage. Last year the Tigers couldn’t force a turnover to save their life, but it looks like that will be changing this year.
- Chad Bailey will be tasked with replacing Nick Bolton, and he did a decent job. He was quick to the football and made quite a few tackles. Having Nicholson with a year of experience under his belt should be huge, too. Also, something of note is Bailey was Bolton’s roommate for the last two years so it’s likely he picked up some valuable knowledge from the All-American in their time together.
- JC Carlies will be teaming up with Martez Manuel to fill the void at safety. Manuel will be the leader but Carlies played well and he was a safety in HS so that should make his transition from corner relatively easy. Shawn Robinson and Stacey Brown were the next men up after Carlies and Manuel.
- Jarvis Ware has a torn ACL so the cornerbacks will look a little different this year. Ennis Rakestraw will be the top guy, and he will be paired with Ish Burdine on the outside. Each had a pick on Saturday. Chris Shearin looks like he will be the Nickel as he was matched up with the slot against the first team. JD Perkins might also find himself in the fold at some point. He was a 4-star Juco transfer, but for now, Wilks has him with the second team.
- The D-Line will be a huge strength next year since almost everyone returned. McGuire, Utsey, and Whiteside all were making plays and that will be expected week in week out from this group.
Special Teams Takeaways from the Game
- Mevis still doesn’t miss. He will be such a strength in the next three years.
- The main other special teams notes came from who was returning punts. Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper split the job, and it looks likely one of them will join Badie for kickoffs to replace Dawson Downing although they didn’t practice any kickoff situations. The edge to win the job probably goes to Cooper, but Lovett is special, too, and punt returns were a major area of weakness for the Tigers last year, so having options will be a huge relief for coaches and fans alike.
For now, the Tigers will continue to practice, but the anticipation of football season is always building. Stay tuned to Rock M for more updates all throughout the offseason.