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Rock M Roundtable: Has the portal been a plus or minus for Mizzou Football?

Mizzou has been active in the transfer portal after seeing a number of contributors leave. Will the portal end up as a boon or bane to Mizzou’s success next season?

NCAA Football: North Texas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Rock M Roundtable aka Editorial Bored aka Pregamin’ (but in the Summer), a weekly Q&A where we’ll consult the editorial board on all the big questions facing Mizzou Athletics this summer.

It feels like we’ve been talking transfers and the portal for years now, mostly due to the rapid-fire pace players have been entering and exiting in the college basketball world.

But Mizzou Hoops isn’t the only program in Columbia that’s picking players out from other schools these days. Eli Drinkwitz and his staff have been navigating this wild world of college transfers for the better part of five months now. Young studs have left. Young studs have arrived. How will it all shake out in the end? We’ll find out in September, won’t we?

To get an initial read on how the transfer portal affected Mizzou Football’s outlook, we gathered together some of our football staffers to answer some birds-eye questions. Which outgoing transfers will we miss the most? Which new guys are primed to improve the team? Is there more movement on the horizon?

The exits came early and often for Mizzou following the 2021 season. Out of all the departures, whose absence will the Tigers feel the most?

NCAA Football: North Texas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: The one that hurts me the most is Mekhi Wingo; STL product, freshman starter, a position where Missouri has needed a talent upgrade for awhile...and he goes to LSU. Ouch, man, very ouch.

But which absence will Missouri feel the most? I feel like it’s Connor Bazelak. Why? Because it was very clear that Eli Drinkwitz had a QB succession plan in place that went something like Bazelak ‘21 -> Bazelak/Horn ‘22 -> Horn ‘23 and now he’s been scrambling to find someone else to fill that ‘22 slot the entire offseason. He finally found it with Jack Abraham but there’s no guarantee Abraham will be a competent stopgap. And since Cook and Macon are apparently not allowed to start at QB for Eli Drinkwitz, that puts the quarterback management in a vulnerable position. In his two years in charge Drinkwitz hasn’t managed the quarterback position very well and it’s showing. For all his faults, Bazelak would have hidden that aspect a little better given he was a returning starter and of course he was going to start but, well, here we are.

Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: I think the easier answer here is Mekhi Wingo. After making the All-SEC Freshman team last season, it hurt to lose such a young, talented player on the defensive line who made a huge impact. Not only did Wingo transfer, it was to another SEC school in LSU – but you understood why. Obviously, Robert Steeples joining LSU’s staff played a significant role in Wingo transferring there – and that’s a big thing to watch here in the future, because Steeples can be a major player in recruiting the St. Louis area.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: I think Nate and Sammy’s answers are pretty on-the-spot, but there’s another key contributor that I think we’ve forgotten about: Daniel Parker, Jr. Did DPJ’s numbers pop off the box score? Not exactly. But Parker was a veteran leader in the locker room, one who always showed up and did the dirty work that mattered on the field (lest we forget all the mauling blocks he made over the past two years.) He wasn’t the most prolific pass-catcher, but he was reliable when called upon and probably had a higher ceiling than we saw over the past year. Mizzou can theoretically replace his production, but I wonder how much they’ll miss the intangibles he brought day-in-and-day-out.

Eli Drinkwitz hasn’t been shy about accessing the portal, either. Out of the many additions he’s made, which will Tiger fans notice most this coming season?

Syndication: Gainesville Sun Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Nate Edwards: In my eyes the answer to this is simply “pick your defensive transfer of choice”, really. The defense last year improved as the year went on but was awful for most of the season and a talent infusion was needed at almost every position. So, Jayden Jernigan on the line? Yeah, you’ll notice him. Ty’Ron Hopper in the linebacking corps? Absolutely. Dreyden Norwood at the corner? Made a ton of noise in spring camp so, yeah, definitely him. From a pure play-making standpoint, however, my money is on Hopper the Younger to be the next impact linebacker the Tigers send to the NFL.

Sammy Stava: On the defensive side, I think it should be Florida linebacker transfer Ty’Ron Hopper. The talent is there, as he was rated as a 4-star and top 100 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class. Hopper lived up to that ranking with a big season last year for the Gators. In a position of need, I think this commitment excited a lot of Mizzou fans when it was announced. On paper, this could be Drinkwitz’s biggest get in the transfer portal. Here’s hoping Hopper lives up to the hype for the Tigers.

On offense, Nathaniel Peat transferring to Mizzou just made a whole lot of sense after Tyler Badie’s departure where the Tigers desperately needed the experience at that position. Peat showed some flashes at Stanford, and he has the potential to be real productive in the kick return game. The Columbia native and Rock Bridge grad has a chance to become a fan favorite if he can put up a big year.

Josh Matejka: Hopper was the first guy that came to mind because of his playmaking ability, but I think Peat is going to be the guy that stands out most. Eli Drinkwitz’s running backs have produced two whopper campaigns at Mizzou, and Peat is primed to be the next guy up. His ability as a pass-catcher makes him an ideal fit for Drinkwitz’s offense (and the QB they’re sure to run out this fall), and he’s proven that he’s capable of being an effective runner at the Power Five level. Peat will be a centerpiece of Missouri’s offense, meaning he has to be the choice here.

If this past weekend is any indication, Drinkwitz isn’t finished mining the portal for new talents. Which positions should he and the staff be looking to bolster going into the summer?

NCAA Football: Rice at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Edwards: He finally added that elusive quarterback that he was selling out for so that’s good. What’s interesting about that addition, though, is that Abraham will be a walk-on. We always say that college football coaches will find a way to make the scholarship math work but we usually say that with the understanding that they’ll push a kid out to add a transfer on scholarship. But Abraham isn’t on scholarship yet and the Tigers are at 85 so... are they staying? Was this a special circumstance because they don’t think Jack, specifically, is good enough to get a scholarship yet? Other than tight end I don’t really see any position that absolutely must add another player via transfer portal. And, after a quick perusal of the portal, I don’t see any players that are an absolute must-add to this team, so while the Drinkwitz staff is always looking for more talent, I’m not sure if they’re actually going to be adding anything to this roster.

Which, of course, means they’ll bring in three more guys to spite me.

Sammy Stava: Obviously, the quarterback position is a huge question mark heading into this season, which is not what you want given that it’s the most important position. Cleary Drinkwitz and the staff are looking for an answer after reportedly missing out on Jayden Daniels, J.T. Daniels, Gerry Bohanon, etc.

The Jack Abraham addition is intriguing, but obviously there’s no guarantee that he is going to be the starter heading into this season as he is coming in as a walk-on. I guess the QB situation is what it is at this point and we hope for the best.

Meanwhile at the tight end position, I know that Drinkwitz added Tyler Stephens from Buffalo. But as of right now, he would be the most experienced in that group. I love the potential of Hoerstkamp, McKay, and Whisner, but having said that — that’s still a lot of youth. Bolstering the tight end spot wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Josh Matejka: To be honest, I wrote this question before Abraham officially committed and after glancing over the roster, it feels pretty set. Of course, there’s no telling what the summer may bring — Mizzou is no stranger to unexpected departures for any number of reasons. But outside of the tight end position, which is loaded with young talent but not a ton of experience, every other position feels sturdy. Maybe they could do with another experienced hand on the offensive line? That’s reaching a little bit, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt the staff to keep their eyes open.

Got a question for our staff regarding Mizzou Sports? Let us know in the comments and we’ll look at adding it to an upcoming roundtable!