Photo credit: mutigers.com
It's been an active and newsworthy offseason for Mizzou Athletics. Starting with SEC Spring Meetings that debated future scheduling, to Missouri NIL Laws, then SEC Media Days and what Eli didn't say, Gates' Basketball Recruiting, and finally, the start of Football Fall Camp.
As a precursor to the 2023-24 athletic season at Mizzou, I just want to hit on some of key issues facing football, basketball, and Mizzou Athletics in general. These are not meant to be all-inclusive, just some I would like to discuss.
Let's start with the Football.
Finding a quarterback to take his teams to the next level has been a bugaboo for Eli Drinkwitz. Starting with Shawn Robinson, then Connor Bazalak, and finally to Brady Cook, Coach Drink hasn't been able to find or develop an effective starting quarterback to build his offense around.
Now going into 2023, he has said he is opening up competition for the staring quarterback's job. His top three options include an old face, a new face, and a face most fans would like to see more of this year.
The old face is redshirt junior Brady Cook, who has opened fall camp taking the snaps with the first team. Under Cook the offense struggled much of last year with its vertical passing game. Eleven SEC starting quarterbacks were more effective at getting the ball down the field than Cook. On passes of 20 yards or more downfield, Cook only completed 32.2% of those passes with an average of 12.5 years per attempt.
Of course, Cook was playing injured most the season after he tore part of his Labrum in his right shoulder against Kansas State. How much that impacted his down field passing is hard to measure. Cook never made excuses and now, after off-season surgery, feels he is healthy.
The new face is sophomore transfer Jake Garcia, formerly of the University of Miami. What Garcia brings to the plate is a strong arm and eight games experience at the Division 1 level. Last season at Miami, he completed 68 of 115 passes for 803 yards and 5 touchdowns, primarily in a backup role for the Hurricanes. What Garcia is working on while in fall camp is to use his athleticism to improve his mobility.
The face Mizzou fans would like to see more of this year is redshirt freshman Sam Horn, the former 4-star prospect from Georgia. With the offensive struggles last year, many thought Horn might be given a chance to take over the starting quarterback job. In a case of "Sam, we hardly know you" the much-ballyhooed recruit only saw action in one game, a brief appearance against New Mexico State.
Here's what we know about Horn. He has a strong arm (he's also a pitcher on the Tigers baseball team) and he's smart (SEC Academic Honor Roll).
Someone who will likely have a big impact on who will start at quarterback this season for the Tigers, is new Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, Kirby Moore. Moore brings his talents and experience from Fresno State. With Drinkwitz taking more of CEO type of role, Moore is expected to be involved in the day to day running of the offense and play calling on Saturdays.
What Moore brings to the table is enthusiasm, his experience of tutoring under names like Chris Peterson and Jeff Tedford, and a fresh perspective the Tiger offense sorely needs. What concerns me about Moore, is the jump from the WAC to the SEC a too big of a leap? Many are still wondering about Drinkwitz's leap from Appalachian State to Mizzou.
Needless to say, Coach Drinkwitz and Coach Moore need to get this one right. It's imperative for their future, and the future of the program.
Early last week, Coach Drink announced that he will use both Brady Cook and Sam Horn in the South Dakota game, which opens the season on August 31st. Hopefully, this time, we will get an extended view of Sam Horn.
Gates is Wiping the Floor with Recruiting.
If you haven't been paying attention to Mizzou Men's Basketball lately, maybe you should tune in. Coach Dennis Gates has already gotten commitments from three high school 4-star athletes for 2024-25. The latest being 7-footer Peyton Marshall from Marietta, GA. The 300lb Marshall is rated the nation's No. 9 center and No. 56 player overall by 247sports.com.
Gates recently received commitments from point guard T.O. Barrett and forward Marcus Allen. Barrett is the No. 114 rated recruit in the nation, and Allen is the overall No, 52 recruit in the nation.
It's still early, but Gates could be putting together a top ten recruiting class for 2024. As noted by Dave Matter in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, as of August 18th, only three other schools had three commitments from 247Sports top 100 players, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Georgetown.
These recruits will add to the freshman class joining the Tigers this season, which includes 4-star players Trent Pierce and Jordan Butler. Also, let's not forget the solid transfer class Gates is bring in this year of Connor Vanover, Tamar Bates, Caleb Grill, John Tonje, and Jesus Carralero.
Are we witnessing Dennis Gates building Mizzou basketball, not only into a top SEC program, but also into a national powerhouse program? Stayed tuned.
Watching the sudden collapse of the PAC-12 has been shocking. Starting with Colorado's return to the Big 12, followed by Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah. Washington and Oregon will join USC and UCLA next year in the Big 10. As it stands now, in 2024, the PAC-12 will only consist of Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State.
Of course, Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC in 2024, bringing it up to 16 schools. Other schools have moved into and out of other conferences, more moves are expected.
How does all of this affect Mizzou?
First of all, Mizzou is not leaving or being kick of the SEC. Got that? Let me say it again. Mizzou is not leaving or getting kick of the SEC.
If Mizzou left the SEC to go back "home" to the Big 12, would be extremely stupid. And the Mizzou administration is not that stupid. Being a member of the SEC is a financial win for the school, and the school brings the St. Louis and KC tv markets to the SEC Network. It's a win-win.
Mizzou leaving the SEC is not something you hear from the SEC or MIzzou. It comes from some of the more delusional SEC fan bases who may believe the Earth is flat, and some of the Big 12 fan bases who are still pissed off about Mizzou leaving the Big 12.
I'll write more on the impact of Texas and Oklahoma coming into the SEC and how it impacts Mizzou in a later post.
Now I would like to say something about the impact Mizzou Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois has made during her tenure. Reed-Francois has not only brought needed energy to Mizzou, she has also been innovative and not afraid to make necessary and difficult decisions. Reed-Francois can be given credit for the hiring of Dennis Gates, enhancing the fan experiences at athletic events, retooling the NIL program, and boosting fundraising.
Speaking of NILs, I wanted to go into my thoughts about this controversial issue during this post. But there is too much be said, and I will address this more in the future.
Finally, I am starting my third year doing the MIzzou Musings blog at Gateway City Sports. This blog is just my thoughts, opinions, and musings about Mizzou Sports. In no way it a site for breaking news or expert opinions.
I hope you will enjoy reading it and share with me your thoughts and opinions.