Here are the highlights from our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers.
Q: Going forward to next year, Mizzou football has no respect. I have looked at way too early predictions, but every publication I look at has us winning 4 games and possibly 5. Bowl projections we aren’t listed in any. We must have a lot more deficiencies than meets the eye. I know most important position is QB, and we are the most unsettled in the SEC at that position.
A: It’s all about the quarterback. Every other team in the SEC East brings back an established starter or added a high-profile transfer. It’s really hard to earn the benefit of the doubt when you don’t have a clear-cut starter at the game’s most important position.
It’s nice that Mizzou addressed needs at linebacker and receiver and center … but you need a high-level quarterback to win in this league, and Mizzou doesn’t know what it has in the Cook-Macon-Horn mix.
I’ve said here for the last couple of weeks: Based on what we know today about this team and the rest of the schedule, Mizzou will be favored in no more than five games, maybe four. Obviously that outlook can change once the season kicks off. Some teams can surprise one way or the other. But if I were filling out my preseason SEC ballot right now, I’d put Mizzou sixth in the East. Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky are further along than Mizzou. South Carolina just added a 3,000-yard Power 5 passer and addressed other immediate needs. Florida will need some time under the new regime to compete for the East, but the Gators have two experienced QBs who have either won games or shown flashes. Mizzou, though, returns two guys whom Drinkwitz was very reluctant to play last year, even when the starter was hopping around on one leg. There are other areas of this team to like, but I’m not as bullish despite all the promising recruiting. 2022 is a transition year.
Q: If you were the AD and made a basketball coaching change would you aim for an up and comer from the mid-majors, or someone like Chris Mack or Mark Turgeon, or would you be willing to take a chance on a coach who has had some previous trouble such as Pitino or Sean Miller? Just curious what type of coach a school like Mizzou should be aiming for.
A: If you decide to make a change, I think you need someone who will blow up the roster and aggressively pursue the best transfers and recruits who are immediately available. Essentially do exactly what Cuonzo Martin did five years ago when he added the Porters, Tilmon and Kassius Robertson.
Otherwise, this team is going to struggle again next year, the crowds won’t magically show up just to see a different coach on the sideline. In that case, this will be a multi-year experiment.
I think you need someone who has coached in some capacity at a high-major program. You can’t learn on the job and expect instant success. Making a change here signals that being an NCAA Tournament team 50% of the time isn’t acceptable. Which sounds crazy considering the last 20 years of Mizzou basketball, but that’s the message being sent. So you better get someone with a plan to compete with Pearl, Calipari, Musselman, Oats, etc., on day one.
Does a 30-something-year-old mid-major coach have the chops to do that? Maybe, depends on the guy.
When next season tips off Pitino will be SIX YEARS OLDER than Norm Stewart was when Norm retired. Is that the answer?
Sean Miller is a maniac. He can coach, had a great run at Arizona until the FBI/NCAA caught up with him. I don’t believe the NCAA has finalized the sanctions on Miller or Arizona, so he could still be facing a show cause penalty if I’m not mistaken. If you can get past the NCAA baggage, he’s an intriguing coach. Not sure if Mizzou has the stomach for someone with his background.
Q: Is all this coaching turnover good for Mizzou? I see some benefits and negative things with this. What do you think?
A: For football? Change is good if the guy leaving isn’t a good fit for your program. I think hiring a defensive coordinator who’s spent his whole career in college football is an upgrade over Steve Wilks. Consider: Blake Baker just spent a year at an SEC program that has incredibly high standards … he’s been a coordinator at two FBS schools and led a very good Power 5 defense at Miami in 2019 … he’s an experienced recruiter … he has familiarity with Drinkwitz, having worked with him in the past. We can’t say it’s a home run hire by any means, but it’s fair to say it makes a heck of a lot more sense than hiring someone who had been out of coaching and hadn’t worked on a college campus in 15 years.
As for the other changes, too early to tell. College assistants hop around so much, it’s never been harder to measure if they’re any good or not.
Q: I have seen statements from you that our football team will likely be favored to win in only 4 of our 12 scheduled games this fall. As I study the roster and see question marks at QB, TE, RB, OL, and LB I can’t say that I fault your logic. If we do indeed finish 4-8, how hot will the seat be for Eli Drinkwitz and how hard will it be to hold on to young highly guys like Luther Burden? Talk me off the ledge and give us some hope?
A: This team can be under .500 in 2022 and still have a chance to make progress in 2023 with all the recruits that are on board. But here’s the challenge: The bandwagon fans will vanish if this teams is anything less than 6-6 in 2022. Considering all the excitement he’s generated with recruiting the last two years and attendance continues to be the worst among the 13 SEC schools that care about football — sorry, Vandy — the crowds will grow thin if this team takes a step backward in 2022. And, as you mentioned, then you worry about the portal’s impact on the roster. Will the standout recruits have the stomach for a transition season? That’s why this offseason and this quarterback competition are so incredibly pivotal. They can’t get the QB situation wrong. There’s no mulligan.
This will be in tomorrow’s story, but this is by far the least experienced QB group Missouri has taken into a season since it joined the SEC. It’s not even close. Over the last 10 years, Mizzou has returned a QB with an average of 482 career pass attempts at the FBS level. This year’s most experienced QB has 65 career pass attempts. The lack of experience is staggering.
Q: Besides Brazile, who has impressed you the most this year?
A: Brazile is good at the rim on both ends. Has a lot of room for growth in other parts of the game.
Pickett has figured out what he does best and has become an effective slasher. DeGray is a smart player, knows his limits and doesn’t try to do more than he can.
When Kobe Brown has the right matchup, he’s a very good player. When defenses crowd him he struggles to overcome the extra attention.
DaJuan Gordon has his flaws, but he’s a tireless defender and is a good spot-up shooter. He’s making 48.6% of his 3s in conference play, which would lead the SEC by a wide margin if he qualified for the leaders. You have to average 2.5 made 3s per conference game to qualify; he’s at 1.4. He brings some value to this team.
Q: Dave, Thanks for the chat. You may have touched on this already, but why does Drink want spring practice so early in the year? Last year looking for some…ANY…coverage of Mizzou on shows like Finebaum, and they really started going on about spring practice in April, covering Georgia and Bama, LSU, etc. Someone asked about Mizzou, and Finebaum and his staff were not even aware that Mizzou SP was already long over. It just seems bad public relations. Besides, the weather would be nicer later in April.
A: A couple of reasons for early practices: He doesn’t like having spring break interrupt practices; this way, the spring game is before campus shuts down for a week. If anyone gets hurt during the spring, they have more time to recover before fall camp. An early spring gives the team more uninterrupted weeks for strength training leading up to camp. And it frees up the staff to get on the road for spring recruiting evaluations.
Mizzou doesn’t take into account the free publicity part of spring practices. If they did, they’d open all the practices to the media and make more players/coaches available for interviews. That piece just isn’t a major priority.
Q: Dave, I know you are a Springsteen fan. What has a better chance of happening in 2022. A tour from the Boss and the E Street Band or Missouri football winning seven games? I’ll hang up and listen.
A: Good question. Bruce has hinted at a 2022 tour. It’s possible. An E-Street Band tour comes down to one man’s choice. Bruce puts out the Boss signal, and everyone else falls in line. When it comes to the football season, nobody gets a choice in whether Mizzou will win seven games. That comes down to playing ability, coaching decisions and a bit of luck. So, I’d say the odds favor a E Street Band tour — just because there are fewer variables at play.
Dave Matter brings you the latest updates from the Mizzou sports scene.