Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NCAA. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Missouri Tigers fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.
Predicting the future is difficult. Think back to exactly one year ago: Missouri was coming off back-to-back victories against South Carolina and Florida. The defense was (finally) rounding into form under defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Freshman defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo looked like a key building block for the future. Connor Bazelak was the starting quarterback.
A lot has changed. Much of it, well, was difficult to predict.
I use that as the backdrop for the question we’re attempting to answer this week: Who is going to start next season at quarterback for Missouri?
The easy answer: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows, including the coaching staff. Could it be Brady Cook? Sure. Could Sam Horn make a jump during the offseason and assert himself as the leader of the team? Of course. Is it possible Eli Drinkwitz takes another shot in the transfer portal? I don’t know how anyone could rule it out. And, no, I’m not willing to completely dismiss the notion of Gabarri Johnson dominating fall camp and finishing the year as the team’s starter, either.
I do think we know the starter will not be Tyler Macon. That’s really all we know.
Looking through the poll responses, I do not have the same sense of confidence as the majority of you do that Horn will be the starting quarterback next year. He’s somehow seen the field less this year than Cook or Macon did a year ago. Why is that? When reading between the lines, it becomes apparent Drinkwitz still needs to see more from his freshman quarterback.
Drinkwitz wasn't pleased with how some of the young players handled their playing time opportunities tonight.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) November 20, 2022
Said some spent too much time huddled on the bench by the heaters
Again, this does not mean Horn has no future at Missouri. It’s entirely possible Drinkwitz is slow-playing this because he doesn’t want to stunt Horn’s development. But I don’t know how I or anyone else can come to the conclusion that Horn is the most likely starting quarterback next season.
That designation, in my opinion, belongs to Brady Cook. I know, I know. Save your groans. At some point we have to come to terms with what Cook is, and what he’s not. Cook is an average college football starting quarterback. Nothing more, nothing less. He has completed nearly 66 percent of his passes this season for 2,260 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s added another 400 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Recent SEC quarterbacks with similar statistical seasons include Bo Nix (2020), Kellen Mond (2019) and Joe Burrow (2018).
Want another head-scratcher? Take a look at this blind comparison:
- 304-for-475 (63.4%), 3,186 yards (245 yds/gm), 6.7 YPA, 16 TD, 9 INT
- 112 carries, 232 rushing yards (18 yds/gm), 5 rushing TD
- 201-for-307 (65.5%), 2,262 yards (205 yds/gm), 7.4 YPA, 12 TD, 7 INT
- 107 carries, 409 rushing yards (37 yds/gm), 5 rushing TD
Which quarterback, statistically speaking, was better? It’s pretty close, at worst, right? The first option passed for more volume, but at a lower efficiency. The second quarterback was a far more effective runner. Any guesses on the quarterbacks?
QB1 is Blaine Gabbert in 2010. QB2 is Brady Cook in 2022. Surprised? I sure was.
Again, I am not trying to convince anyone that Cook is a rock star. But I think there has been some “take lock” in recent weeks with people holding onto their opinions of Cook’s early-season performances when his recent performances have been more than fine.
I do wonder if Drinkwitz sees some similarities between what he had with Ryan Finley at NC State and what Cook has become at Missouri. Both Finley and Cook are game-managers who provide value with their legs. Finley’s first year as a starter a NC State was underwhelming. Finley finished with a total of 19 touchdowns in the Wolfpack’s 7-6 campaign. He started each of the next two years, leading NC State to back-to-back 9-4 seasons with a top-40 offense both years. That is in Drinkwitz’s history. Will it guide his future?
That would be my guess. It’s why I believe Cook is the most likely starter in 2023. I think the second most likely option is a name we don’t yet know that eventually joins the roster from the transfer portal. After that, it’s a tie between Johnson and Horn.
I know that’s probably not what fans would want. It’s not the inspiring choice. But it very well might be the right choice. Only time will tell. Predicting the future is hard.