Thank goodness it is almost here! Each year, as football season concludes, many of us struggle to cope with the reality that there’s a long road ahead before we see our favorite teams on the gridiron again. Fortunately, seven months have passed and we are right back to making totally reasonable assumptions about our teams and envisioning national championships. The Missouri Tigers fanbase is no different.
Eli Drinkwitz seems to be in a good spot with fans. He’s 11-12 at the helm, yet despite having an incredibly average record, there is a lot of buzz heading into his third season. This is thanks mainly to his outstanding recruiting and the classes starting to mature into the depth chart. And, of those great recruiting classes, the one guy everyone is looking forward to the most is the gem of the ‘22 class, Luther Burden. Burden is an extremely talented wide receiver out of East St. Louis, and is expected to make an immediate impact. In fact, he is already listed as the starting X receiver on the depth chart given to the media on Sunday. It is also fair to mention freshmen like Sam Horn, the presumed future of the team at quarterback; Mekhi Miller, a raw, yet talented wideout; and Marquis Gracial, who boasts the size and pedigree to hopefully get some snaps in the interior D-Line spot.
Drinkwitz also did tremendous work in the portal, snatching 14 players from it. Here are some players who are expected to receive meaningful snaps:
- Joseph Charleston, S, Clemson
- DJ Coleman, DE, Jacksonville State
- Ty’Ron Hopper, LB, Florida
- Nathaniel Peat, RB, Stanford
- Cody Schrader, RB, Truman State
- Tyler Stevens, TE, Buffalo
- Jayden Jernigan, DL, OK State
- Josh Landry, DL, Baylor
- Kristian Williams, DL, Oregon
- Dreyden Norwood, CB, Texas A&M
When looking at this list, I think it stands out that most of these players have played at a Power 5 level and were brought in to have an instant impact on this team. Additionally, the players added were picked to fill holes within the roster. For instance, Missouri lacked depth at the defensive line position, so they got three interiors and one end. Drinkwitz knew what was needed for the roster to take a step up, so he went out and got his guys. This is why there is optimism this season. Drinkwitz has spoken confidently about this team, so now fans are waiting to see if those claims are true or just a coach trying to get fans in the stands. Missouri has a game on Thursday and has an opportunity to show the nation what they are made of. What has to go right in the season opener for fans to continue feeling optimistic? I’ve got you covered.
- Brady Cook needs to manage the offense efficiently: When Brady Cook was announced as the starter early into fall camp, it garnered jubilation from the Tiger faithful, but a skeptical twitch from those outside the program. Cook only has seven games worth of experience, and everyone is well aware that Drinkwitz frantically searched throughout the portal all offseason in a desperate attempt to find a quarterback. Essentially, it’s hard to be optimistic about the position, as Cook is unproven. Now, I’d like to preface that by saying Cook has shown several glimpses, like the bowl game against Army, and I can see a future where he is the starter and leads this team to where it needs to go. The problem is, we just won’t know until the game is played. I think the most important thing for Cook in game one is to limit silly mistakes and take solid care of the football. In 2021, Connor Bazelak threw 11 interceptions in 11 appearances. On top of this, most of these interceptions came at a horrific time, occurring most notably against Boston College, Kentucky, and South Carolina. For Cook to win the trust of the fanbase, he has to throw one or two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
- A full-time starter emerges at the tailback position: Heading into game one, Drinkwitz has tallied three players who will all get significant snaps: Elijah Young, Cody Schrader, and Nathaniel Peat. While a running back by committee isn’t a bad thing, it’s always pleasant to have one guy you know you can fully trust and, unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case at the moment. Each running back on the depth chart pertains to a certain set of skills that will benefit the team, but I think it’s important that one of them shows out and deposits themselves as the starter heading into the future.
- Defense causes havoc: Blake Baker is the third defensive coordinator in three years for Drinkwitz, but with the talent at his disposal, he has the opportunity to succeed immediately. Last year’s defense was known for a lack of production from the front seven and Baker looks to change that. Baker’s defense will be a one-gap assignment, with a personnel change in the secondary. Baker is introducing the “STAR” position this season, which could prove to be an immediate help to the Tiger defense. This position is a linebacker/safety hybrid, in which the designated player will spend the majority of their time in the box. This has the potential to cause havoc in the pass rush, as well as offer assistance in the run game. With a mix of veterans and new faces, I expect the front seven to be much improved from last season. Darius Robinson, Isaiah McGuire, and Trajan Jeffcoat all have a knack for getting after the quarterback, so if they can succeed, I expect this game to be over quickly.
The Tigers will take on Louisiana Tech at home, @ 7pm, on ESPNU