Mizzou camp preview: Quarterback
It’s been an offseason like no other for the Missouri football program. The Tigers fired four-year head coach Barry Odom following a 6-6 2019 campaign, replacing him with Eliah Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz cleaned house on the offensive side of the ball, then just after the team began holding spring practices, the COVID-19 pandemic hit college sports. Missouri had to cancel 12 of its 15 originally scheduled practices, as well as the Black and Gold game, in the spring. While the team was able to return for voluntary strength and conditioning workouts this summer, which have since transitioned to mandatory practices, the Tigers have still only once taken the field in pads under Drinkwitz’s watch.
Despite all the uncertainty that continues to swirl around the 2020 season, Missouri and the rest of college football are scheduled to begin fall camp practices Aug. 7. So, each day between now and then, PowerMizzou is previewing the Tiger roster one position group at a time, breaking down the depth chart and providing the storylines to watch for what should be the most important fall camp in recent memory. We start, of course, with the quarterbacks.
Not only will the Missouri offense have to adjust to a new play-caller and all-new coaching staff this season, the team will have a new starting quarterback, as well. Following the graduation of Kelly Bryant, the starting spot still seems to be up in the air. During a virtual press conference in June, Drinkwitz called the quarterback position “the biggest question on our football team right now.”
There figure to be two primary contenders for the starting job. TCU transfer Shawn Robinson is likely the favorite. Robinson, who sat out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules, started eight games across two seasons at TCU. He flashed at times, showing the big arm and athleticism that made him an Army All-American in high school, but struggled with accuracy (in seven starts in 2018, he threw nine touchdowns and eight interceptions) and injury. Robinson missed the final five games of 2018 due to a shoulder injury. Last year’s coaching staff raved about Robinson’s development during his season on the sidelines, but a new staff should mean a clean slate and a true quarterback competition during camp.
Robinson’s main challenger figures to be redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak. Bazelak saw a bit of action during his first season on a college campus in 2019, completing eight of 12 passes at Georgia and starting the season-finale against Arkansas, in which he went 7-9. Unfortunately, Bazelak tore the ACL in his right knee during the first half of his inaugural start and therefore couldn’t participate in spring practices. He’s believed to be back to 100 percent now, however, so with an impressive camp, he could make a run at taking over the starting spot.
Missouri actually has a longer-tenured quarterback than both Robinson and Bazelak in redshirt junior Taylor Powell, and he should get a chance to compete for the starting spot, as well. Powell saw the first meaningful snaps of his career last season, but his numbers left a bit to be desired. He completed 29 of 62 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It’s worth noting that Powell got thrown into some tough situations — relieving the injured Bryant during a downpour at Kentucky and starting at Georgia on short notice — and his experience could come in handy after such a tumultuous offseason, but we see him as a more likely backup than starter.
There's also St. Louis native Brady Cook, who joined the program during the offseason after being committed to Missouri for more than a year. He racked up impressive numbers at Chaminade, throwing for 3,194 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior. Cook graduated high school early and enrolled at Missouri in January, but that doesn’t figure to be much of an advantage since spring practices got curtailed. Barring multiple injuries in front of him, Cook seems destined to redshirt the 2020 season.
To whatever extent the media is allowed to observe fall camp and interview players, the quarterback position will be the top storyline — not only which player wins the starting job, but what that means for the rest of the offense. While he possesses a strong arm, Robinson fits the mold of a dual-threat quarterback, capable of utilizing his legs in the running game. Bazelak and Powell, meanwhile, project more as pro-style passers. Drinkwitz has coached both types of quarterback before, so he may not necessarily have a preference, but it will be important for the staff to identify a starter sooner rather than later so that it can base the playbook around that signal-caller’s strengths.
We’re giving Robinson the edge to win the starting spot, with Bazelak and Powell competing longer to be his top backup. While it will be interesting to see Cook in action for the first time, he’s likely to redshirt this season.