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Five young players to watch against South Dakota

Mizzou needs to get its young guys playing time against South Dakota. Here are five to watch.

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Twitter: @MizzouFootball

When it comes to playing FCS opponents, no one nails the ideal better than Nate Edwards:

Play Your Young Guys

There’s enough new starters and/or guys playing different positions this year that I do want them to get live reps against guys that are actively trying to make you lose. However, Missouri has also built up a ton of depth... and won’t always have an opportunity to trot those guys out. So, please, do so.

Blood donor games are for getting your starters some live reps, putting the game to bed early and then getting an extended look at the reserves and youngsters to (a) get a better look at who will play key rotational roles, (b) shake off the rust that comes with the offseason and (c) getting the youngsters’ feet wet at the college level.

Defining success against FCS teams is pretty easy. If you accomplished what I laid out in the previous paragraph, congratulations! If you didn’t, booooooooooooooooooooo you. That may seem harsh, but Mizzou is at a level where nothing less than dominance against FCS opponents should be accepted. Last year’s performance against Abilene Christian won’t cut it, folks.

Assuming, then, that Mizzou is successful against South Dakota on Thursday night, we should get a good look at some of the young, promising players on Mizzou’s roster. While they may not light Faurot on fire — though I’d love to see just that — the talent Eli Drinkwitz has accrued should be able to more than hold their own against a middling FCS opponent.

Here are five young players to watch against South Dakota on Thursday night.

Sam Horn

Sam Horn throws a ball during a 2023 fall camp practice Twitter: @MizzouFootball

I mean... obviously, right?

We know Sam Horn is going to get lots of playing time against South Dakota. He may not be the “starter,” but he’s done enough in camp to at least give Drinkwitz some pause over whether or not to rubber-stamp Brady Cook’s job.

Our history with Sam Horn is what it is at this point: one of the highest-rated QB prospects to ever commit to Mizzou but couldn’t see the field during his freshman season. He’s had a year to learn the ropes and now has the opportunity to make the program his. If he has any plans on usurping Cook, he’ll need to impress against an overmatched Coyote defense.

Armand Membou

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Vanderbilt at Missouri

This is kind of cheating considering we knew Membou was going to be a starter coming into the season. But if the sophomore is going to be the next star of Mizzou’s offensive line, Thursday night is the opportunity to show it. Freak athletes like him don’t show any signs of vulnerability against FCS opponents, and anything less than a dominant showing against the Coyotes would signal trouble in the trenches.

If he is who we think he is, however, we may have multiple offensive line highlights to drool over for the next week.

Marvin Burks, Jr.

Marvin Burks Jr.

The local blue-chipper is in a fascinating position coming into week one. He’s listed as a backup behind JC Carlies, a bonafide NFL prospect who won’t get a lot of time off during the 2023 season. But the true freshman has done enough to warrant a marquee spot on the depth chart, and Thursday night’s opener will be a great time to assert himself. Assuming Mizzou builds a comfortable lead, Burks will get a lot of run against a college offense that’s sure to air it out with Josh Davis calling the shots.

Being a freshman in the secondary is hard — just ask Ennis Rakestraw, Jr.. How Burks acquits himself in what is surely going to be his black-and-gold debut will tell us a lot about the future (and current depth) of a scary secondary.

Marquis Gracial

Marquis Gracial

Maybe no recruit outside of Luther Burden in the 2022 class generated more hype than Marquis Gracial, the St. Chuck Mack Truck. He’s a big, mean defensive tackle who is spending valuable time as the understudy to traveled veterans like Jayden Jernigan and Josh Landry. Mizzou will need those two for much of the season, however, so Gracial is sure to get his reps against South Dakota. He doesn’t necessarily need to dominate, but it would be comforting to see him create the sort of disruption that he was known for at St. Charles High. The line will only get better if it has young stars pushing the veterans, and Gracial has the opportunity to do just that in 2023.

Tristan Wilson/Logan Reichert

Tristan Wilson

It would be a “players to watch” listicle if we didn’t cheat a bit on the back end, would it?

Xavier Delgado has a pretty firm grip on the left guard spot, and he’s backed up by a redshirt freshman and true freshman in Tristan Wilson and Logan Reichert. Delgado is sure to get a lot of rest against the Coyotes, meaning Wilson and Reichert will split the extra playing time.

I can’t say I’m expecting much from either — if you thought being a freshman in the secondary was hard, try the offensive line — but I’m curious to see how they hold up at the college level. If Reichert, especially, doesn’t look overwhelmed and seems to be adapting to the speed of the game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him assert himself as the second-string LG and get a lot of snaps in a line that will be rotating a lot this season.