Photo Credit: Associated Press
I don't know about you, but for me , this 2022 Mizzou Tiger football season has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Close call loses to Auburn, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky. A nice season opener win against Louisiana Tech, and a impressive road victory against South Carolina. Then there is the embarrassing loses to Kansas State and Tennessee.
Games that gave Mizzou fans hope, games that were disappointing, games that gave us optimism, and finally, games that were just head-banging frustrating. These emotions weren't just game to game, often it was from quarter to quarter, or possession to possession.
Much of the frustration has been directed at starting quarterback Brady Cook. Is it fair? The issues on offense go beyond Cook and the current Quarterback situation. But it starts there.
Here are three thoughts or observations on the quarterback plight as it stands after 10 games.
Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks, and more Quarterbacks.
I became concerned about Mizzou's quarterback situation during the spring, mainly because it was obvious Eli Drinkwitz was concerned. After the transfer of Connor Bazelak to Indiana, only Brady Cook, Tyler Macon, and Redshirt Freshman Tommy Lock were on the roster. Heralded Freshman, Sam Horn, was not yet on campus and did not participate in Spring drills.
Other than Cook' s starting in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2021, there was little experience with this bunch.
Apparently, Coach Drink wasn't happy with what he saw during Spring practice. He then went on a seemly desperate search in the Transfer portal to find, not only depth, but a starting quarterback.
Most of the potential quarterbacks he brought on campus to try to persuade to transfer to Mizzou, were an notable group. Former Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels visited before deciding on LSU. Daniels was a Sun Bowl MVP his freshman year.
Former USC and Georgia QB, J.T. Daniels came for a visit. Daniels started seven games over two seasons at Georgia, but after an injury in 2021, he lost his job to Stetson Bennett, who lead the Bulldogs to a National Championship.
Then came former Baylor QB, Gerry Bohanon, for a visit to Columbia. He led Baylor to a 10-2 record in 2021 and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. However, he lost his spring battle to sophomore Blake Shapen. After his visit to Mizzou, Bohanon, instead decided to go to South Florida.
All of the above had several options other than Mizzou.
As most fans know now, Drinkwitz finally got the much traveled former Southern Miss and Mississippi State QB, Jack Abraham to transfer to Columbia. Abraham was a three-year starter at Southern Miss, and never played at State.
Why not Sam?
Jack Abraham has added depth, but not much else. The 6-0, 205lb Oxford, MS native has appeared in three games, thrown 6 passes, completed 2, with 2 interceptions. Meanwhile, Redshirt Freshman, Tyler Macon hasn't attempted a pass and only appeared in three games.
Many fans want to see true Freshman and four star recruit, Sam Horn. However, Drinkwitz, continues to believe Brady Cook is still the best option for the Tigers.
Understandably, Drinkwitz sees these guys in practice every day, and should be the best judge on who should be getting playing time. Additionally, Horn, didn't come to campus until practice started in August. Coach Drink seems concerned that Horn is just not ready for SEC play.
Nevertheless, Sam Horn is the unknown quantity to fans and the latest potential savor for the football program. Last year, it was a similar debate between Bazelak and Cook, with Cook being the potential savior.
All the same, it was disappointing not to see Horn in against Vanderbilt. The Vandy game had been penciled in as the Sam Horn premiere. Drinkwitz was hoping the Tiger could put the game away early, and use it as an opportunity for Horn to get some game reps. Since Mizzou just barely pulled the game out(17-14), it didn't happen.
Hopefully, the New Mexico State game this weekend, will be our introduction to Sam Horn.
Thoughts about Brady
Look, let's be fair. Brady Cook didn't miss a chip-shot FG against Auburn as time ran out. Nor did he drop the ball in OT as crossing the goal line. The offensive line issues and the inopportune penalties on offense aren't his fault.
That being said, Cook has trouble connecting with his receivers down field, and has thrown some infuriating interceptions. This has been a problem since the start of the season and doesn't seem to be getting much better.
Cook's QB rating of 130.94 is only 75th nationally and 9th in the SEC. Overall, the Mizzou offense in the SEC is 12th in points per game, 12th in yards per game, and 12th in passing yards per game. Do you see a trend here?
Coach Drink's concern about his quarterback situation during the spring is now quite clear. In spite of his optimism at SEC Media Days, he likely saw this coming.
So the question is, do the Tigers just need a better quarterback? Or is this more a reflection of coaching? Remember, the primary reason Eli Drinkwitz was hired was his offensive acumen.
Evidence seems to point, at least part of it, is coaching. Coach Drinkwitz has not had any success in developing a quarterback since his arrival in December 2019. In his third year, he is now on his third starting quarterback.
Also, comparatively, Mizzou's offensive stats, have not improved in any significant way during Drinkwitz's three season tenure in Columbia. Mizzou has been the 8th or 9th ranked offense in the SEC all three years.
How about an Offensive Coordinator?
This offense is sputtering and is not getting better. Help could be on the way, but won't happen after the season.
Part of Eli Drinkwitz's extension has included more money for staff. The assumption is Drink will bring on board an Offensive Coordinator. In fact, he has said publicly he would consider it.
One of the concerns about this program is, Drinkwitz may be wearing too many hats. Not only is Drink wearing the Head Coach hat, he also is his own Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach. The belief he is spread too thin.
Gary Pinkel, who was an offensive assistant at the University of Washington and coached quarterbacks, wasn't his own OC or QB Coach at Toledo or Mizzou. He hired separate coaches to handle those jobs.
When Drinkwitz was hired, it was acknowledged he had little HC experience. Just one year at Appalachian State. Adjusting to coaching at the Power 5 level should've been expected.Year 3 may have made Eli Drinkwitz realize how much growth was required.
The Tigers are 4-6 on the season, and need wins against New Mexico State and Arkansas just to qualify for....excuse the french.....the Crappy Bowl. There is no room for error.
Should Eli Drinkwitz throw caution to the air, start Sam Horn the next two games, and just build for 2023? Or stick with current plan, and stay with Brady Cook? Maybe he is the best chance for Mizzou to get to a bowl this year.
Bowl or no Bowl, in 2022, Eli Drinkwitz needs to develop a QB for 2023. That's imperative for the program, and his job.