Connor Bazelak is going to be an All-American, Elijah Young is going to rush for 1,200 yards as Mizzou’s starting running back and Chad Bailey is going to take be an upgrade over Nick Bolton as the Tigers’ starting MIKE linebacker.
Alright, back to reality.
I know everyone wants to glean something from Mizzou’s spring practices. I get it. I really do. But it’s time for a bit of a reality check.
We really didn’t learn that much from these practices, and we learned even less from whatever it was the Tigers did during their “Spring Game.”
I get the purpose of these games. The Black & Gold Game is an opportunity for Mizzou promote its product and to put an end to spring ball with something fun and exciting for the players. It is not a game put on for fans and media alike to learn about which players made strides in the spring and which players will go on to reach new heights in the fall.
That’s not to suggest we can’t learn anything from spring ball. Kortay Vincent put together a long list of things he took from the game. I just don’t want people to learn the wrong lessons.
Spring ball is more about who is playing with who than who is playing well.
If you’re interested in finding out who has the opportunity to see the field for the Tigers next fall, this is the time for you. If you’re interested in finding out how well they’ll play when given those opportunities, god speed and good luck.
Here are a few things I believe we definitively learned during spring ball, broken down by position.
Bazelak is your starter, and there is no real competition. If there’s a competition at the position, it’s between Brady Cook and Tyler Macon for the backup spot. It seems pretty clear based on the spring, though, that Cook has the inside track.
Elijah Young and Tyler Badie are clearly the top two backs right now. Everyone else will battle for third fiddle behind those two. Who will see the third most snaps? That seems completely up in the air at the moment.
Tauskie Dove and Keke Chism are established as two of the Tigers’ starters. Mookie Cooper, once officially ruled eligible (could you get on that, NCAA?), seemed to prove enough during the spring that he’ll fit into the mix with a significant role. Barrett Banister, Jalen Knox (when healthy) and Dominic Lovett are probably the next men up. There figures to be a camp battle for the rest of the snaps will between JJ Hester, Jay Maclin, Chance Luper, D’ionte Smtih, and Micah Wilson.
It seems like Michael Maietti, Case Cook and Hyrin White have established themselves as three of Missouri’s starting offensive linemen. Javon Foster is getting the majority of the starting snaps at left tackle, but don’t rule out Zeke Powell completely. Luke Griffin and Xavier Delgado seem to be battling for the final starting guard spot with Griffin having the upper hand.
I’m not sure there’s any other position we learned less about than the defensive line. It’s the most veteran group, which should lead to less uncertainty... unless it’s this Mizzou defensive line. Akial Byers, Markell Utsey, Chris Turner, Isaiah McGuire, Kobie Whiteside, Darius Robinson and Trajan Jeffcoat will all see playing time. Keep an eye on Ben Key, Realus George and Daniel Robledo. All three could carve out a role on this team, based on what was said throughout the spring.
As of today, Chad Bailey has been the player filling in for Nick Bolton at linebacker. Devin Nicholson is manning his usual starting spot. We’ll see if Bailey is able to hold onto that starting spot when Rice transfer Blaze Alldredge arrives on campus.
No position has more up in the air coming out of the spring than the defensive backfield. Ennis Rakestraw and Martez Manuel, both returning starters, will once again start in their same positions at corner and box safety, respectively. Jadarrius Perkins and Ishmael Burdine are battling for one of the other spots at corner. Jaylon Carlies, Chris Shearin and Jalani Williams are all battling for playing time at safety.
So, what did we really learn about Mizzou football this spring?
Honestly, not a ton. We gained some more understanding of where the roster battles will be heading into the fall. It was more about confirmation bias than anything. It served as a time to get us all excited about guys like Mookie Cooper and Dominic Lovett and all the new faces in the secondary.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Hope springs eternal, especially for this Mizzou football team under Eli Drinkwitz.