Congratulations! You, me, Coach Drink... all of us just survived the first Early Signing Day of the Drinkwitz regime at Missouri. It wasn’t super exciting or impressive compared to our SEC brethren, but that’s what happens when you make a coaching change! But let’s see how Drink’s first roster is getting built; who’s left, who’s coming in, and opportunities to build depth as he plumbs the JUCO wells and transfer portal candidates.
First, after graduation and early-Draft-declarers, here’s what’s left of Missouri’s two-deep:
Here’s a reminder that having success in both offense and defense is heavily reliant on the passing game; offenses with experienced quarterbacks and receivers have a much higher quality than teams with inexperience in either of those positions, and the defense requires an excellent secondary to have an overall excellent defense. Missouri, notably, is going to be absent most of that on offense and half of that on defense. So it might be a rough year! But who’s around to step up? Glad you asked! Today we take a look at the offense, and then I’ll follow up with the defense tomorrow. On to the pointsy-boys!
(classes in parentheses are projected 2020 classifications)
3 + 1
Returning Producers: Taylor Powell (R-JR), Connor Bazelak (R-FR)
Other Returnees: Shawn Robinson (R-JR)
Commits: Brady Cook (FR)
This will be the first, truly, open quarterback competition since James Franklin, Tyler Gabbert, and Blaine Dalton duked it on in the spring of 2011. Powell and Bazelak have 2019 playing experience, but you don’t bring in a player like Robinson just to have him backup the guys you already had. You typically want four quarterbacks on the roster at all times in case of emergency and Missouri, for now, has their four locked up. They certainly won’t be chasing anymore given roster/scholarship restrictions unless something drastic happens.
5 + 1
Returning Producers: Larry Rountree III (SR), Dawson Downing (SR), Tyler Badie (JR)
Other Returnees: Simi Bakare (JR), Anthony Watkins (R-FR)
Commits: Elijah Young (FR)
The stable of running backs is pretty evenly split from a class management standpoint, with two each of seniors, juniors, and freshmen. With Dominique Johnson flipping to Arkansas, you might think that the Tigers would be looking for one more, but, as the rumor mill reported, Missouri wanted Johnson to switch to linebacker so that might be more of an indicator that they’re good with just taking one in this class. I would endorse that decision.
9 + 2
Returning Producers: Jalen Knox (JR), Dominic Gicinto (JR), Kam Scott (JR), Barrett Bannister (JR)
Other Returnees: Micah Wilson (R-SR), Khmari Thompson (R-SO), Tauskie Dove (R-SO), Maurice Massey (R-FR), C.J. Boone (R-FR)
Commits: Jay Maclin (FR), J.J. Hester (FR)
It feels like Missouri has been operating at a receiver deficit since 2013. The double dip between ‘13 and ‘14 left no proven pieces in ‘15, and even with Johnathon Johnson and J’Mon Moore sticking around for four years, there hasn’t been a consistent corps of receivers that could be relied on. Barring any defections, the Tigers might actually have that this year, with four guys returning with significant experience. Experience does not translate to quality, however, and Knox/Gicinto/Scott/et al. are going to have to make a significant leap in the offseason to make that experience count for something. Massey and Boone are super intriguing, as is incoming freshman J.J. Hester. And if Maclin the Younger wants to pull off an impression of his cousin, I feel safe in saying we’d all fully endorse it.
However, projecting happy things for young players makes us all feel good, but can’t be relied upon. And the amount of times we’ve discussed on this here internet website about the potential of Knox and Scott and this super young receiving corps, it would lead most coaches to stock the cupboard with athletes and hope something good comes out of it. Expect a few more receivers to join the mix as well as a few losses via transfer portal.
5 + 0
Returning Producers: Daniel Parker, Jr. (JR), Niko Hea (SO)
Other Returnees: Brendan Scales (R-SR), Logan Christopherson (JR), Messiah Swinson (R-SO)
One senior, two juniors, two sophomores. Carrying five tight ends on a restricted scholarship budget probably means sticking with the guys you have right now, but none of them have shown the game-breaking quality that Missouri fans expect out of the position. Maybe this is the year Swinson stakes a claim as the next great Tiger tight end, or maybe the whispers of excellence surrounding Scales come to fruition. Parker and Hea are great for blocking, but having a zone-busting matchup nightmare is a luxury that Coach Drink loves to utilize.
*offensive line is tricky since guys bounce around all over and freshman weight-gain is unpredictable. My classifications, clearly, are my projections and not a sure-fire lock.
6 + 1
Returning Producers: Larry Borom (R-JR), Hyrin White (R-JR)
Other Returnees: Angel Matute (SR), Bobby Lawrence (R-SO), Javon Foster (R-SO), Luke Griffin (R-FR)
Commits: Mitchell Walters (FR)
Most offensive line coaches want to be able to trust 8-10 guys to fill in at any spot at any time on the five-man offensive line. Missouri currently has 13 guys, seven of which I would classify at tackles. An 8-10 man rotation typically requires 15-17 scholarship linemen, so I fully expect Drink & Co. to take on a few JUCOs/grad transfers/transfer portal dudes to fill out the depth chart. I also expect (require?) Drinkwitz to ace his offensive line coach hire and strength coach hire: Odom’s crew were able to nab giant dudes to man the offensive line, but the quality of play dropped significantly once Glen Elarbee left, and being giant only gets you so far against the equally giant, noticeably faster defensive linemen of the SEC.
5 + 1
Returning Producers: Case Cook (R-JR)
Other Returnees: Mike Ruth (R-SO), Thalen Robinson (SO), Xavier Delgado (R-SO), Jack Buford (R-FR)
Commits: Drake Heismeyer (FR)
With the surprise loss of Trystan Colon-Castillo to the NFL Draft, the interior of the Missouri offensive line is going to be....untested. Cook was the only one to get significant experience with Ruth and Delgado getting spot duty in clean-up situations. Unless you’re Elvis Fisher or Evan Boehm, you’re not starting on the line as a freshman, so it’s hard to count on Heismeyer or Walters to fill in immediately. Jack Buford was highly rated coming out of Lutheran North and has had a year in the “gun club” packing on weight, but is still a freshman with no game experience. My guess would be a JUCO linemen (or two) signs in February and is starting in the spring.