Mizzou Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Zach Bland/Mizzou Athletics
2020 Results: 5-5, 5-5 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 6-6, 3-5 (SEC
Eliah Drinkwitz first year at the helm in Columbia may not have wowed anyone, but the 5-5 finish was well above what most people expected from the Tigers in 2020. Can Mizzou make the 2nd year leap in 2021? They are certainly capable of finishing over .500, but will need to figure things out on the defensive side if they are to go any further than that.
Drinkwitz found his quarterback of the future in Connor Bazelak. His numbers weren’t amazing, but he showed a lot of moxy for a true freshman being thrown to the wolves. It didn’t hurt that he had Larry Roundtree to hand the ball off to. Roundtree fought for every yard and will be tough to replace. Tyler Badie and Elijah Young will look to fill those shoes, but it won’t be easy behind an offensive line that struggled in 2020.
If the line can improve, and they do return six players that were in the rotation last season, this offense could take a major step forward. If they can pound the rock, the receivers should find more room to get open and though the group lacks a super star, there is plenty of talent from which one could emerge. Niko Hea had an excellent spring and should lead a proven group of tight ends while possibly being Bazelak’s favorite target.
Missouri showed they can score and should be able to do that with more consistency in 2021, but stopping the other team was as serious problem. Teams with a pulse on offense averaged over 40 points a game against the Tigers once vaunted defense. Drinkwitz hired Steve Wilks to take over at defensive coordinator in hopes of improving on a historically bad unit this season.
To be fair the injury bug wasn’t kind to the Tigers on defense last season and if Kobie Whiteside Darius Robinson and Akial Byers can all stay healthy, depth on the defensive line should be pretty solid.
At linebacker, Nick Bolton’s departure to the NFL will certainly hurt, but Rice transfer Blaze Alldredge brings some much needed experience to the group. In the secondary a group that only tallied 4 interceptions last season gets a big boost with the return of Jarvis Ware from a torn ACL and the arrival of four-star transfer Jadarrius Perkins at Cornerback. There are still question marks at safety, so expect a shift from almost exclusive man coverage to more zone looks in order to make up for that potential weakness.
The Tigers return all three kickers in kickoff specialist Sean Koetting, placekicker Harrison Mevis and punter Grant McKinnis, while Mookie Cooper could provide a much needed spark in a lackluster return game.
Drinkwitz was brought to Columbia to provided offense after the end of defensive minded Barry Odom’s tenure. After a good recruiting class and year of experience, the Tigers should be able to put up points, but can they keep the other team out of the endzone? Missouri’s win total will hinge on that factor and the performance of the offensive line. They are bowl eligible this season and I’d at least expect them to enjoy a post season appearance in 2021.