Mizzou Report Card: Offensive players in 2022
Now that we've reached the conclusion of the 2022 regular season it is time to hand out a position-by-position report card for Missouri's offense.
Quarterbacks: Brady Cook's first six games and his last six games were a tale of two halves. In his first six games, Mizzou went 2-4 with wins over Louisiana Tech and Abilene Christian, a blowout loss to Kansas State, and three one-possession losses to Auburn, Georgia and Florida. In those games, Cook completed 110 of 170 (64%) passes for 1,212 yards (202 yards per game), five touchdowns and six interceptions. He added 54 rushes for 163 yards, two touchdowns and a fumble. If the season ended after those first six games his grade would likely be lower.
At Kansas State in week two, he passed for a season-low 128 yards and threw two interceptions. Against Auburn in week four, he made the play at the end of regulation that should've led to a Mizzou win, but outside of that he led two good drives and had about eight or nine bad ones versus a team that would fire its coach a few weeks later. When the Tigers had Georgia on the ropes for the first three and a half quarters in week five they failed to capitalize, and when Georgia came roaring back at the end Cook couldn't muster a first down on their final offensive drive. Against Florida in week six, he played well but had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Missouri should've likely headed into its week seven bye at 5-1 or 4-2.
The second half of the season saw Cook make gradual improvements in many facets of his game and the Tigers go 4-2 in their last six games. He completed 107 of 163 (65%) passes for 1,292 yards (215.33 yards per game), eight touchdowns and an interception. He rushed the ball 71 times for 384 yards, four touchdowns and two fumbles.
When the Tigers hosted Vanderbilt in week eight he didn't have a stellar game, but he helped get the Tigers to a 17-0 lead which would be enough to score the team's first conference and Power 5 win. Against then-No.25 South Carolina in week nine, he had a rushing touchdown and for the most part, managed the game well and led Mizzou to a ranked road win over a division foe. Missouri lost its fourth one-possession game of the season versus Kentucky, and while Cook had an abysmal first half he had two rushing touchdowns to help the Tigers regain the lead in the fourth quarter in that game. Mizzou got crushed against Tennessee in week 11, but Cook had a good day leading three drives of 60 yards or more for touchdowns. He also added a then-career-high 106 rushing yards on the ground. Cook threw for three touchdowns against an overmatched New Mexico State and led the Tigers in rushing for the second week in a row. He had the best game of his career for the third week in a row in week 13 versus Arkansas with bowl eligibility and the Battle Line trophy at stake completing 16 of 26 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while adding a new career-high 138 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground in the win.
Cook is a big reason why the Tigers finished .500 in the regular season for the fourth consecutive season instead of probably 8-4. He's also a big reason why when the season seemed grim at 2-4, the Tigers were able to fight back and claim bowl eligibility.
Overall, he finished the regular season completing 217 of 333 (65%) of his passes for 2,504 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions while finishing as the team's second-leading rusher with 547 yards and six touchdowns. GRADE: C-
Running backs: Coming into this season it appeared that whenever Stanford transfer and Columbia native Nathaniel Peat's lingering soft tissue injury went away he would be the team's feature back. While he never missed a game due to injury he was superseded by walk-on Cody Schrader.
Peat would have two and a half decent games this season. He rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on eight carries versus Louisiana Tech in week one. He had 20 carries for 110 yards against Auburn, but fumbled at the goal line to seal the win for Auburn, and he had 20 carries for 117 yards against Florida.
Peat's problem was that he was inconsistent. He showed flashes in the three aforementioned performances, but both of his fumbles this season were in the red zone and he had a knack for getting tackled for loss because he was trying to juke defenders out behind the line of scrimmage too often. Peat finished the regular season with 95 carries for 400 yards (4.21 yards per carry) and two touchdowns while also adding 10 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Schrader entered this season as Division II's leading rusher in 2021 while at Truman State with 2,074 yards and 24 touchdowns. He started in 10 of 12 games and earned a scholarship midway through the season. He finished the campaign with 692 yards and eight touchdowns on 157 carries (4.4 yards per carry). Schrader never had a 100-yard rushing game like Peat, but he did have 70 yards or more six times compared to Peat's three. He also didn't have a fumble and didn't struggle as much with getting tackled for loss.
Schrader played well and exceeded most people's expectations for him this season. It's unknown if he can continue to be a feature back for an entire season, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz had reservations about that two games after he deemed him the feature back following the win over Vandy, but at the very least Schrader is consistent with his opportunities.
Elijah Young also chipped in with 19 carries for 93 yards and a fumble in 56 snaps across eight games and Tavorus Jones rushed seven times for 25 yards in seven games. GRADE: C
Wide Receivers: This was the most exciting part of the offense, particularly the East St. Louis duo of five-star true freshman Luther Burden III and sophomore Dominic Lovett. The latter finished third in the Southeastern Conference in receiving with 846 yards, 56 receptions and three touchdowns. He's the first Tigers receiver since Emanuel Hall in 2018 to have over 800 receiving yards. Lovett had four 100-yard receiving games with three of them being games of 130 receiving yards or more. Burden had as good as a season as someone could expect a true freshman to have. He hauled in 38 receptions for 329 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed 17 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns and returned a punt for a touchdown.
Barrett Banister had a career season with 36 receptions for 403 yards with his last two games being the best of his career. He had seven receptions for 74 yards against Tennessee and seven receptions for 91 yards versus New Mexico State before exiting the game early with an injury and missing week 13.
Tauskie Dove was the Tigers leading receiver in 2021 with 38 receptions for 576 yards. This season, Dove's numbers dropped as he recorded 16 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown. Mookie Cooper added 18 receptions for 225 yards.
Burden wasn't the only true freshman wide receiver to play well, Mekhi Miller also played very well in limited action. Miller caught six of his seven targets for 108 yards with no drops in 163 snaps across 10 games. Miller filled in nicely for Banister in the two games he missed including two huge third and long receptions against Florida on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter and a 22-yard reception on third and four to seal the regular season finale win over Arkansas.
Overall, Burden and Lovett led the way in receiving with Banister being a steady third receiver, especially toward the end of the season. This group did have its struggles, most notably, the lack of separation receivers seemed to get throughout the season as well as game when it appeared only one or two receivers were making plays. Only twice did it seem like the receiving core had a good game with at least three or four contributors 一 against Tennessee and versus Arkansas.
It has been reported that Lovett will enter the transfer portal when it opens on Dec. 5. Lovett himself hasn't commented that he intends to be in the transfer portal and if he does enter the portal it doesn't mean he can't return to Missouri. GRADE: B-
Tight Ends: This group was a non-factor for most of the season with Buffalo transfer tight end Tyler Stephens having five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown, Kibet Chepyator having three receptions for 26 yards and Ryan Hoerstakmp recording two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown. That's good for a combined 10 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns which is just 4% of the team's receptions, 4% of the receiving yards and 15% of the receiving touchdowns.
Last season, the tight end group of Niko Hea, Messiah Swinson and Daniel Parker combined for 35 receptions, 288 yards and five touchdowns.
It would be logical to think that the 2022 crop of tight ends were better at run-blocking considering their lack of production in the receiving game, but that isn't the case. Stephens graded out as PFF College's worst run-blocker for Mizzou at 36.5 while Chepyator was second-to-last at 37.1. Hoerstkamp fared better at 61.3, but he only played 130 snaps this season. When you can't provide a consistent threat in the passing game or help a struggling offensive line in the run game then it's safe to say Missouri would've been better running out an extra offensive lineman every play. GRADE: D-
Offensive Line: There are not a lot of positives that come from this group. A mix of injuries and inefficient play led to the Tigers throwing out six different starting lineups.
Hyrin White missed the season with an achilles injury and his replacement Zeke Powell was lost for the season against Auburn. EJ Ndoma-Ogar was playing well for the six quarters he got to start at South Carolina and Kentucky before he was out with a lower leg injury.
The offensive line amassed 32 of Mizzou's 54 offensive penalties (59%) with Connor Wood leading the way with 10, Connor Tollison right behind him with eight and Javon Foster and Mitchell Walters getting four a piece. That's 2.67 penalties on the offensive line per game. Mizzou as a team had 92 penalties and finished tied for 120th in the category. If you eliminate half of the offensive line's penalties then the Tigers are tied for 76th in penalties.
Missouri finished the regular season being tied 118th in tackles for loss allowed per game with 7.88 and 91 for the season. This isn't solely an offensive line stat, but it's indicative of how often opponents were in Mizzou's backfield. However, Missouri ranked 56th in sacks allowed per game with 1.92 per game and 23 on the season. Much like tackles for loss, sacks are not solely an offensive line stat. A couple of those 23 sacks were on Cook himself while the reason there weren't more sacks was his ability to scramble.
The positives for this season were the aforementioned play of Ndoma-Ogar at right guard and freshman Armand Membou, who started the last three games at right tackle. In the last three games with Membou in the lineup, the offensive line allowed 15 tackles for loss, four sacks and four penalties. That averages out to five tackles for loss, 1.33 penalties and 1.33 sacks which marked a decent improvement. GRADE: D
Coaching: Drinkwitz had an up-and-down year at best as the team's head coach and offensive coordinator. Again, Mizzou should probably be no worse than 7-5 and there's an argument it could be 9-3, but there are many reasons it's not. It could be blamed on execution and or the playcalling, but Drinkwitz has his hand in both of them.
The offense taking until week eight to score its first opening-drive touchdown, the final possession versus Georgia that saw the offense unable to get a first down and the lopsided losses to Kansas State and Tennessee are primarily games the Tigers lost because of the play-calling.
The losses to Florida, Auburn and Kentucky had a lot to do with poor execution and while that is more on the players, it's up to coaches to prepare players better and put them in positions to succeed. Even in the Tigers' wins over Louisiana Tech, Abilene Christian, Vanderbilt and New Mexico State, Drinkwitz seemed less than thrilled with the performances after those games. The Tigers won three of the four games by 17 or more points, but all of the games were far from dominant it seemed.
Drinkwitz was the main play caller until week 11 when he said he ceded over some of the playcalling duties to quarterback coach Bush Hamdan. In the first nine games with Drinkwitz as the main play caller the Tigers went 4-5 and were averaging 350 total yards, 17.8 first downs and 23.11 points per game with a total of 21 touchdowns. Cook was averaging 223.44 passing yards per game with six touchdowns and seven interceptions while adding 232 rushing yards and five touchdowns and three fumbles.
Once Hamdan took over the offense averaged 433.33 total yards, 19.67 first downs and 32.67 yards per game with a total of 11 touchdowns.
Cook averaged 238 passing yards per game and had seven touchdowns and no turnovers while adding 315 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Drinkwitz received a contract extension the morning of the week 10 loss versus Kentucky with an additional 1.2 million allotted to possibly hire an offensive coordinator. That may be the move the team makes in the offseason. For as much as the offense and team struggled in general for most of the season, it did win four of its last six and developed a number of players such as Cook, Schrader, Burden, Lovett and Membou who all had a hand in the team claiming bowl eligibility. GRADE: C-