The 2021 Postmortem series is officially done and we can begin looking into the 2022 team! Rejoice! The best way to project 2022 success is by looking at the remains of the 2021 team and figuring out how much production returns on the offensive and defensive sides.
If you haven’t already done so, take a listen to the podcast I did with The Godfather Bill Connelly a couple of weeks ago. He goes over Missouri’s returning production in detail and highlights some key areas that the Tigers are lacking in and how the entire roster can be evaluated.
The 2022 season is still weird given that there are lingering super seniors and the ever-active transfer portal. While that could mean that Bill C’s returning production number might not be 100% accurate, it’s certainly as close as you can get in a given timeframe and he’s done better, more thorough work than anyone else out there. Here’s how his formula projects Missouri:
- Overall Returning Production: 65% - 68th
- Offensive Returning Production: 52% - 105th
- Defensive Returning Production: 78% - 30th
The current national average for returning production is 66%, 1% higher than where Missouri comes in. As far as the SEC goes, Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida all return the same 65% of team production that Missouri does while Vanderbilt (69%), South Carolina (73%), and Tennessee (74%) return more than that. Typically, a team that returns more than 80% of its previous years’ production improves by about 5.8 adjusted points per game in SP+ whereas teams that return less than 50% of their previous years’ production drop by about 6.3 adjusted points per game in SP+; while there are outliers in both sides that’s a consistent, significant indicator of quality.
Here’s Missouri’s 2021 end-of-season two-deep based off of production and snap counts. The gaps are players that were on the 2021 roster that won’t be on the 2022 roster:
That’s way more gaps than what we had at the end of 2020 heading into 2021 but, 1.) there were several super-senior starters that returned, and 2.) that’s the nature of the transfer portal era; experience leaves and you can replace it with experience from elsewhere.
Today let’s break down Missouri’s returning offensive production! On offense, returning production looks at the following metrics and is given the following weights:
- Returning Quarterback Passing Yards: 29% weight
- Returning Running Back Rushing Yards: 6% weight
- Returning Wide Receiver/Tight End Receiving Yards: 37% weight
- Returning Offensive Line Snaps: 28% weight
Bill C has said it countless times and I’ve echoed it: experience in the passing game - i.e. quarterbacks and receivers - matters the most. But, given Bill’s updated weight allocation, the only thing that isn’t a good predictor of future success is running back rushing yards. Let’s break down what’s coming back and from whom (italicized players are not on the 2022 roster).
Quarterback Passing Yards - 29% weight - 16% returning production
Last year this was 100%; this year it’s 16%. Ouch. Now, it’s really easy to spin this into a positive: Connor Bazelak was never going to be the deep-ball throwing quarterback we wanted, he couldn’t run, and he was going to be replaced anyway. Or, you could argue that Brady Cook is a more mobile version of the same guy who transferred to Indiana so it’s not really a huge loss of potential production. You can even add the caveat “well, Sam Horn is going to win the job anyway”. I’m not saying any of those takes are wrong, hell, I’m even subscribing to a few of those myself. What I am saying, though, is that as a predictor of future team success in the next season, it’s always better to head into a season with last year’s starting quarterback and Missouri won’t be doing that.
Running Back Rushing Yards - 6% Weight - 31% Returning Production
For the second straight year the Tigers will be losing their top rusher who represented over 60% of the total rushing yards on the year. The loss of Tyler Badie and Dawson Downing is stymied, however, by the addition of Nathaniel Peat as his production at Stanford gets smashed into the numerator and denominator of Missouri’s rushing production, Regardless of if the returning production was 2% or 92%, the fact remains that returning running backs just don’t factor much into predicting future success. That’s a good thing since Missouri isn’t returning much production in this category and it also bodes well for this roster if any other backs decide to leave/transfer in the future.
Receiver/Tight End Receiving Yards - 37% Weight - 64% Returning Production
And now we get to the most important returning production stat: receiving yards. Missouri’s 2021 in-season issue of not having a standout receiver leads to an 2022 pre-season benefit of having a good chunk of that production returning. Tiger receivers were super young last year and will continue to be super young this year but seven of the eleven guys targeted more than ten times return with some extra seasoning on them. In fact, four of the five guys not coming back for 2022 were the least targeted receivers last year. And losing the best receiving tight end in Niko Hea is buoyed by the addition of Buffalo transfer Tyler Stephens, a less sure-handed version of Hea but the same type of weapon in regards to yards per target. This group has the second-most returning production and is adding some excellent talent; if the quarterback can get them the ball this could be the reason the Missouri offense improves in 2022.
Offensive Line Snaps - 28% Weight - 74% Returning Production
The Missouri offensive line got a head start on replacing Case Cook when he was lost for the season five games into 2021. E.J. Ndoma-Ogar and Connor Wood both had opportunities to fill in for the fallen captain with Wood commanding most of the snaps throughout the year. All-SEC center Mike Maietti is off to the NFL but Buffalo transfer Bence Polgar will be battling it out with redshirt freshman Connor Tollison to replace the former Rutgers transfer. The offensive line’s strength is its depth as there are seven guys who played more than 100 snaps in 2021. Finding the right mix will be the key but there will be plenty of experience to pick from in crafting what should be the offense’s second-best strength.
Missouri returns a ton of production on the line and the receiving corps but is starting over at quarterback and running back. Heading into the 2021 season the Tigers had the 27th most offensive experience and were able to improve by 5.2 adjusted points per game, rising from 88th in 2020 to 52nd in 2021. The Drinkwitz staff brought in key transfers to replace the production lost by graduation and transfers and should have a ton of talented youngsters ready to break into the rotation. How that translates on the field against the SEC will be a question to ponder over the next six months.