As the 2023 season approaches, we’re asking our football staff to answer a series of questions facing the Mizzou Tigers. Read along to get their takes on who should start, who will shine and who will leave their mark on the season.
It’s the question that’s been hanging over Mizzou Footballs since the calendar turned to 2023. We’ve (likely) spilled more digital ink on it than any other question in any other sport this past academic year. Hell, we’ve even asked all of you what you think about Mizzou’s QB situation. Here’s what you had to say.
But fall camp is here. No more hedging our bets...
Brady Cook has the experience, Jake Garcia has the pedigree, and Sam Horn has the potential. Who should start at quarterback for Mizzou in 2023?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: What has Eli Drinkwitz’s M.O. been since he arrived at Mizzou: How do I win as many games as possible as fast as possible? It’s not the best way to build a program, in my humble opinion, but it’s borne out with three years of hard evidence. And the guy that gives Mizzou the best chance to win games right now is Brady Cook. Will he elevate Mizzou to the heights of a run at the number two spot in the east and, potentially, a run at the extended College Football Playoff? Probably not. But he’s good enough (when not massively injured) to win you 8 or 9 games. At worst, you probably won’t win less than six. That’s proven to be enough for Drinkwitz, so I have no reason to believe it won’t be this year as well.
Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: I’m intrigued to see a fully healthy Brady Cook who now has a year of experience as a starter under his belt. The benefit of the doubt should be given to Cook early in the season, and if he shows no signs of major improvement from last year to the present, then Drinkwitz will be forced to look elsewhere. At the end of the day, Cook lost Mizzou a handful of dreadful games (K-State, UF) but also won a game (Arkansas), showing steady improvement as the season progressed.
Why not ride that out and see what the next step for him is? If Cook improves in his downfield accuracy and decision-making, then we could be looking at the best QB of the young Drinkwitz era at Mizzou. If not, then the Tigers will merely start a youthful quarterback in a season that they expected to be operating behind one anyway. I see no point in handing the reins over to Horn or Garcia early in the season, thus shattering Cook’s confidence and likely ending his career in COMO. Let non-conference play be the test run, and from there Drinkwitz and Moore can sit down and evaluate if Cook is the best-equipped QB to win this team some conference games.
On top of that, I do feel that people undervalue Cook’s running ability and how that affects opposing defenses. Arkansas became the guinea pig that put the SEC on notice in that regard, and his speed and elusiveness in the open field can catch defenders by surprise. With an offensive line that still faces question marks, having a mobile presence may be more beneficial than a pocket passer, especially when the offense struggles to pick up first downs during stretches of games.
Nate Edwards, Football Analyst: My lame answer is that the best quarterback on the roster should be the quarterback for 2023, regardless of what that name is. My more nuanced cop-out answer is a guy who can operate in the system the best, is accurate, plays it safe in the passing game, and offers some mobility on the ground. So let me actually give an answer by process of elimination:
Jake Garcia is an intriguing talent, one that was mega-hyped coming out of high school before turning in a clunker of a debut with a terrible Miami offense. He took way too many sacks (12.3% sack rate) and offered nothing in the run game to counter it (9 attempts, 45 sack-adjusted rushing yards over 8 games. In addition, he had a 59% throwing accuracy with an awful 4.6 ANY/A (Cook was at 6.2 and that’s pretty average). Accuracy doesn’t really improve with quarterbacks over time (minus one or two outliers) so Garcia is not the guy for me. Sam Horn had one series last year and missed all of spring practice but certainly has the pedigree to insinuate great things. But this team is built to win now. Do you want to risk that with a redshirt freshman who hasn’t gone through the gauntlet of an SEC schedule? By process of elimination, my choice is Brady Cook. I’m not saying he should be the starter for the entire year regardless of outcome, but heading into the season I believe he should be the starter because he gives the Tiger offense fewer chances to fail.
Jaden Lewis, Beat Writer: Currently, my answer is Brady Cook and it is his job to lose. He’s by far the most experienced quarterback on the roster, playing in 20 career games. Jake Garcia has only played in nine while Sam Horn’s only appearance came against New Mexico State. I feel like Cook improved as the 2022 season went on and I remain optimistic about the second-year full-time starter. He is fully healthy, and on paper at least, has an improved offensive line, play-caller, and a deep wide receiver core.
If Garcia and or Horn step up and outplay Cook during fall camp then it gets real interesting. However, if that’s the case, multiple guys should get a shot during the first few weeks of the season before the offensive staff makes a decision. And that’s only if they outduel Cook. In a make-or-break season, Cook is likely the best option. He’s seen SEC play, he knows what it's like to be the No. 1 guy for a team for a full season. He’s got the mobility and if his arm improves you have a clear No. 1 starter.
Quentin Corpuel, Staff Writer: Cook is my pick to be the QB1 in 2023. Sure, Jake Garcia was the more decorated prospect coming out of high school, and Sam Horn has been dripping with intrigue since he arrived on campus. But Cook has more SEC experience, more to offer on the ground, and most importantly, a fully intact throwing shoulder.
Besides, college football is a sport where year-over-year continuity is becoming more uncommon, which the Tigers can have at QB this season with a roster that’s ready to win now. There doesn’t seem to be time to help Garcia recover from the circus act that was Miami’s offense last season, nor does there seem to be time to let Horn figure things out in meaningful games. Do both have higher ceilings than Cook? Maybe. But with the current state of the roster, there’s little time for maybe.