Where has Mizzou gotten better and where has it gotten worse?
Over the last ten days, we've been breaking down Missouri's roster with analysis of every position as the Tigers get ready to open fall camp. You know the names by now, but we wanted to go a little deeper with these. How does each position compare to what it was last season?
At each spot, we compare the depth chart headed into this season to the one from 2020 and come up with a verdict of whether Mizzou has taken a step forward or back.
2020 Review: Shawn Robinson went into the season as the starter, but was replaced by Connor Bazelak in week two. Bazelak never relinquished the job and Robinson ended up moving to safety, where he actually saw some action in the regular season finale at Mississippi State. Brady Cook served as the backup and saw some spot duty during the year, completing 6-of-7 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Key Losses: Robinson is no longer at quarterback
Key Additions: Tyler Macon
The Verdict: Missouri should be better here than it was a year ago. The top two have game experience and you would think would improve over what they were a year ago. The third-stringer has worlds of potential, but in an ideal world, he'll redshirt.
2020 Review: Larry Rountree averaged 21 carries and 97 yards per game. Maybe most importantly, he scored 14 touchdowns in a ten-game season as Missouri's primary red zone weapon. Tyler Badie had 76 touches for 575 yards from scrimmage as a change of pace option to Rountree, but was far more effective as a receiver than a runner in 2020. Elijah Young had ten carries for 82 yards.
Key Losses: Rountree was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers
Key Additions: Taj Butts, BJ Harris
The Verdict: We don't yet know if Badie is an every down back. He will certainly not average 21 carries a game. Rountree and Badie combined to average 26 carries a game last year. If that number remains relatively consistent, it will probably be more like a dozen each for Badie and Young with a third back picking up a couple of those carries every game. Missouri will definitely look different at running back without its workhorse. At least at the start of the season, the Tigers are worse than they were a year ago here.
2020 Review: Mizzou didn't have a 500-yard receiver last year. Keke Chism averaged 50.9 yards per game in nine games and was the top gainer in the receiving corps. No one averaged as many as four catches per game. The second and third-leading receivers are gone and overall Mizzou is without four of the eight players who had at least 10 catches and 100 yards.
Key Losses: Jalen Knox, Damon Hazelton
Key Additions: Mookie Cooper, Dominic Lovett
The Verdict: Sure, Mizzou lost half of the top eight receivers, but the receiving corps was significantly below average last year. Adding Cooper and Lovett, plus a healthy JJ Hester and another year of experience for Ja'Mori Maclin should make this group better quickly for the Tigers. The ceiling is certainly higher. Add in some real experience for Chism, Chance Luper and Tauskie Dove and it's hard to see this group not making significant progress.
2020 Review: Niko Hea caught 14 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel Parker Jr. was limited to seven games and caught eight passes, but was a good blocker in the run game.
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: Ryan Hoerstkamp, Gavin McKay
The Verdict: There's plenty of room here for one of the newcomers or maybe even Messiah Swinson to get significant playing time. While Missouri doesn't have a proven star pass catcher like it often has in the past at the position, it's tough to see the group not at least taking a step forward. There's really only one direction to go from last year.
2020 Review: The line was the biggest question mark coming into the 2020 season and while it probably overachieved preseason expectations, it was still wildly up and down during the course of the season. The Tigers lose one starter off of last year's group and bring in a lot of new faces
Key Losses: Larry Borom
Key Additions: Connor Wood, EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Connor Tollison, Jamarion Gooch
The Verdict: Case Cook and Mike Maetti are established starters. Hyrin Morrison-White comes back off a season lost to injury and could very well grab a starting spot as well. Xavier Delgado, Luke Griffin and Bobby Lawrence are players who saw plenty of action last year and will be in the mix for starting roles as well. The Tigers have plenty of bodies, but no certainties beyond Maetti and Cook. The line should be better than it was a year ago. How much better may ride heavily on how ready the two transfers--Wood and Ndoma-Ogar--are to contribute immediately.
2020 Review: The line had a bright spot in the breakout return of Trajan Jeffcoat, but never found anything consistent on the other side of him. The interior was okay, but without Kobie Whiteside all year, Mizzou was stretched very, very thin. They had players at defensive tackle, but didn't really have any playmakers.
Key Losses: Tre Williams
Key Additions: Daniel Robledo, Realus George, Kyran Montgomery, Mekhi Wingo, Jonathan Jones, Arden Walker, Travion Ford
The Verdict: Drinkwitz got a boost with the return of seniors Whiteside, Akial Byers and Chris Turner. Whiteside is the only one of those three assured of starting this season but the other two provide plenty of on-field experience which will be key especially early in the season. Hopes are high for Isaiah McGuire and Darius Robinson with a couple years under their belts. Robledo and George were brought in to be instant impact players and should find themselves in the rotation from day one. At least one of the freshman ends could find playing time, especially if they can surpass Jatorian Hansford, who has worlds of potential but hasn't really flashed it on Saturdays so far. Missouri should be better for two main reasons: The return of Whiteside and increased depth across the line.
2020 Review: Mizzou was led by Nick Bolton, who was one of the best in the country and a second round draft pick. Devin Nicholson emerged as the other starter. The group took a step back in the second half of the season when Bolton was clearly limited by injury.
Key Losses: Nick Bolton
Key Additions: Blaze Alldredge, Zachary Lovett, Dameon Wilson
The Verdict: You don't lose an all-American and get better. Alldredge was a two-time all-conference player and a big pickup in the transfer portal, but it's wait and see to find out if his play in CUSA translates to the SEC. Beyond the starters, someone needs to emerge out of the group of Cam Wilkins, Chad Bailey, Jamie Pettway, WIll Norris or one of the freshmen. There's some long-term potential here, but it's clearly a position with plenty of questions going into 2021...which it wasn't last year.
2020 Review: The play of Ennis Rakestraw as a day one freshman starter was one of the more pleasant developments of 2020. He wasn't perfect, but for a true freshman in the SEC, there was a lot to like. The Tigers lost Jarvis Ware to injury for a while early on and tried a few different players in his place. Ishmael Burdine had some growing pains but showed potential as well. Kris Abrams-Draine moved over from receiver and saw some time.
Key Losses: Jarvis Ware, Adam Sparks
Key Additions: Akayleb Evans, Allie Green IV, DJ Jackson, Davion Sistrunk, Daylan Carnell, Xzaequan Reeves
The Verdict: Adding Evans and Green from Tulsa in the transfer portal was huge for Missouri. The Tigers get two good, experienced college players for a year while they get the young guys adjusted to the college game. You'll probably see one of the freshmen get some playing time and try to challenge Burdine and Abrams-Draine for the fourth spot, but there's now no need to rush them. This group definitely got better, especially because it's hard to even count Ware as a loss since he played in just seven games.
2020 Review: Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie combined for 87 tackles, ten pass breakups, 11 passes defended and the biggest play of the year last year (Bledsoe in the end zone against LSU). They are both now in the NFL. Martez Manuel, the team's third-leading tackler, is back and will now be asked to be the leader of the secondary.
Key Losses: Joshuah Bledsoe, Tyree Gillespie
Key Additions: Tyler Hibbler
The Verdict: It's hard not to see this group taking a hit, at least early on. Martez Manuel is a sure starter. The coaches love the potential of Jaylon Carlies, but there will probably be some early adjustments after he moved from corner in the middle of last year. Jalani Williams, Chris Shearin (opted out last year) and Stacy Brown should push for playing time and Tyler Jones is entering his second year in the program. There are bodies here and high hopes, but at least at the beginning, it's hard to see Missouri being able to match what it had with Bledsoe, Gillespie and Manuel a year ago.
2020 Review: The most pleasant surprise of the season was probably true freshman kicker Harrison Mevis. Grad transfer Grant McKinniss was solid at punter and Sean Koetting did a nice job on kickoffs. The return games were not memorable--at least not in a good way.
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: None
The Verdict: We listed no key additions because we don't know who will return punts, but if it's someone who can simply catch the ball, Missouri has gotten significantly better. Punt returns may have been the single biggest Achilles' heel last season. Getting McKinniss back for a sixth year was huge. The kicking units all return intact and this group should take a big step forward.