It’s fall camp time! As your Missouri football Tigers begin their fall practices to get ready for the season, Rock M Nation will begin going through each position to take stock of the depth and project the position for the season.
Today we look at the quarterbacks.
The Returning Starter
You know this guy. Brady Cook was the starting quarterback all last year, is QB1 heading into fall camp this year, and has been with the Tigers since 2020.
Jake Garcia, who transferred to Missouri from The U, was brought in to challenge Cook for the starting role and give some more depth. At Miami, he played in 8 games with a few miserable starts.
The Returning Backup
The gem of the 2022 recruiting class, Sam Horn was last year’s backup who only saw snaps on one drive in one game against New Mexico State. To add extra salsa to this inexperienced taco, Horn missed most of spring practices due to an injury suffered on the baseball diamond.
The Incoming Freshman
Yet another 4-star quarterback recruited by Eli Drinkwitz and Friends, Gabarri Johnson is a dual-threat quarterback from the Pacific Northwest. Freshmen rarely play their first year, especially as a quarterback, and ESPECIALLY in the SEC, but he’s on campus to learn and provide depth.
A total of 86 Power Five quarterbacks took at least 100 dropbacks last season. Brady Cook’s rankings among them, per PFF:
- 52nd in Passing Grade (66.7)
- 11th in Rushing Grade (78.4)
- T61st in Average Depth of Target (8.5 yards)
- T33rd in Drop Rate (7.8%)
- T26th in Adjusted Completion Percentage (74.6%)
- 32nd in Time to Throw (2.67 Seconds)
- T38th in Deep Throw Percentage (15.2%)
- 8th in Percent of throws Behind the Line of Scrimmage (25.8%) —> 4 YPA when throwing behind LOS
So, to put those numbers into words, it basically amounts to the following: Cook was placed in a cookie-cutter offense and he more or less performed to an average level. A lot of his throws were at or behind the line of scrimmage because that’s where the vast majority of Luther Burden’s targets took place last season. His ability to take off as a runner added serious value to the offense, especially in the second half of the season. Drops were a bigger issue than Cook’s accuracy (or lack thereof).
Ultimately, Cook was a fine starting quarterback who had two horrific games (K-State and Florida) in his first season as a starter. Personally, I think Cook has been discounted too quickly by Mizzou fans as the leader in the clubhouse to start at quarterback again for the Tigers in 2023.
Cook was able to perform as a mid-level starter despite a serious shoulder injury, an offensive line that needed serious upgrades, and a group of receivers — other than Dominic Lovett — that lacked any kind of consistency. A step forward in Cook’s performance this season isn’t hard to forecast.
But will he be able to hold off Sam Horn? And what about Jake Garcia?
I’ll start with Garcia. He had his opportunity to win the job in spring ball when Cook and Horn were sidelined with injuries. Eli Drinkwitz left spring ball claiming Cook was still the starter until proven otherwise. That’s noteworthy.
Horn, to me, is more interesting. He was a legitimate blue chip recruit. Mizzou was thrilled to land him in the 2022 recruiting class. He’s athletic, has a cannon of an arm and projects to be a potential plus starter at this level. Maybe he takes that step this season after adjusting to college life as a true freshman. Maybe it takes another year before we see that leap. Predicting progress can be difficult.
My way-too-early prediction is that Drinkwitz will have Cook and Horn split time during the first two games of the season after Cook is named the “starter.” Whoever performs better against South Dakota and Middle Tennessee would then start against Kansas State.
I’m guessing that player will be Cook. And I honestly don’t think such a decision would be as catastrophic a sign for Mizzou’s chances to compete in 2023 as many reading this might tend to believe.
Missouri’s worst-case scenario (assuming health) is an average Power Five quarterback play. That’s not too bad. The upside is considerably better. That’s encouraging.
Less than a month before Opening Night. Here goes nothin’.