Welcome to spring hype season, my friends.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Bad plays don’t have consequences. Great plays are broken down with a microscope. And almost nothing worthwhile is viewable by the media or fans.
That doesn’t mean this time of year is meaningless, though. Depth charts are (kinda) revealed. Breakout performers emerge. Comments from players and coaches can give us a glimpse into what’s really happening at practice.
It’s early, but there’s no doubt one player in particular has stolen the show at spring practice. He goes by the name “Mookie” and he was the top rated athlete in the country in the 2020 class.
I’m referring to Ohio State transfer Mookie Cooper. He’s showing out early at Mizzou camp, and this is worth monitoring. He’s a legitimate blue chip talent. Things didn’t work out at Ohio State, but that doesn’t mean things won’t work for Cooper in Columbia. In fact, it could very well be the opposite.
Ohio State is loaded with four and five star talent at receiver. Cooper and freshman Dominic Lovett are the lone blue chip receivers on Mizzou’s roster. This is the first time Mizzou boasts multiple 4-star talents at receiver since Jimmie Hunt and Nate Brown shared the field in 2014.
Mizzou just held its open spring football practice. Will have some notes at @stltoday soon.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 6, 2021
One quick observation: WRs Dominic Lovett & Mookie Cooper can add a new dimension to this offense.
It’s fair to say Cooper’s competition to get on the field isn’t quite what it was in Columbus. And it sounds like he’s taking advantage of every opportunity.
“He’s got a tremendous smile,” Eli Drinkwitz said. “God, I love that guy’s smile. He’s got great energy. Great work ethic. His attitude is about, ‘how do I improve?’ He called me after Thursday’s practice and asked me about the next install so he could get ahead.”
Watch: #Mizzou WR Mookie Cooper (@mcgetbusy1) looked as good as advertised during today's open practice. He won't have any problem getting open! pic.twitter.com/nOOSnMtFPD— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) March 6, 2021
Drinkwitz made a point after Saturday’s open practice to reiterate the fact that there is no set depth chart in the spring. He doesn’t want anyone to feel like they have a spot won based on how they perform five months prior to the season.
“When competition is open, you get the best out of people,” Drinkwitz said. “When you set a depth chart, people get complacent... The reality of it is no matter how good you are in spring, if you don’t bring your A-game in fall camp, you’re not going to start for us. So I don’t think there’s value in setting the depth chart.”
There’s also the case of injuries. And that’s part of what makes this spring a unique opportunity for Cooper. He should be competing this spring with Jalen Knox for the Tigers’ starting slot position. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case because Knox had surgery and will be out for the spring.
A quick injury update from Coach Drinkwitz:— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) February 26, 2021
- DL Trajan Jeffcoat is day-to-day
- WR Jalen Knox had surgery on a "lower extremity" and will be out for spring
- TE Niko Hea had surgery and is out for spring
- DB Jarvis Ware is recovering from ACL surgery and is out for spring
The opportunity is there. Cooper won’t be able to “win” the starting job in the spring, but he can certainly make things interesting leading into the fall. He and Knox play a very similar role. Both are great in space and essentially serve as running backs out of the slot. Cooper’s a bit undersized, but his speed plays.
The opportunity is in front of him. Now it’s up to Mookie to take advantage.
“He’s on a mission right now,” Drinkwitz said. “I appreciate that. I’m on a mission with him.”
So far, so good.