5 numbers I want to see Mizzou's offense reach in 2020
Even though Missouri went 6-6 in 2019, the season felt like a disaster. With the NCAA cloud hanging over their head, the Tigers didn’t know until the final week of the season that their bowl ban was being upheld.
Regardless of that injustice done to them by the NCAA, the Tigers did themselves no favors, negating a 5-1 start by finishing 1-5. That included a loss at Vanderbilt.
Oh, and head coach Barry Odom was fired after the season.
OK … whew. I need to take a deep breath here. Join me, won’t you, Mizzou fans?
Now then, heading into 2020, there is actually some reason for optimism, even with Mizzou facing an absolutely brutal 10-game, SEC-only schedule.
First-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz has been saying and doing all the right things this offseason and has the Mizzou recruiting class in a good spot. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of talent on this team, particularly on offense.
So, if we crunch some numbers, what are 5 good goals for the Tigers in 2020? Here’s a breakdown of 5 numbers I’d like to see the Mizzou offense hit this fall:
1. 28.3 points per game
The Tigers finished the 2019 season 10th in the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 25.3 points per game. I’d love to see that improve by 10 full points. Drinkwitz’s 2019 Appalachian State offense averaged a Sun Belt-best 38.8 points per game.
However, without spring practices and with a new quarterback and new offensive system under Drinkwitz, I think a 3-point improvement offensively is attainable. The talent is there. Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak are both capable quarterbacks. Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie are a strong tandem in the backfield. And there are a few playmakers at receiver.
Look, they’re not going to come close to 4 touchdowns against Alabama in Week 1, but I would like to see 14 points or more against the Crimson Tide next weekend. Get the offense installed in live action, get the players’ feet under them and then attack Tennessee in Week 2 with a renewed fury.
I’ve liked everything about Drinkwitz thus far during the offseason. I have full confidence he’ll prove to be a competent play-caller in 2020 and beyond.
2. 12 total touchdowns for Larry Rountree III
After rushing for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018, Rountree took a step back (along with the rest of the Mizzou offense) in 2019. He only put up 829 yards and 9 scores last season.
If he can get to 1,000 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns this fall, that will be big for the Mizzou offense. I say 12 “total” touchdowns because I’d like to see Rountree a bit more involved in the passing game. I know the Tigers have Badie as their go-to receiving back out of the backfield, but Rountree has the skills to be an effective pass catcher, too.
If Rountree has a big season, it will mean Drinkwitz’s offense is a success. He’s the key to what the Tigers will try to do this year.
3. 2 receivers with 800+ receiving yards
The Tigers didn’t have a single receiver with 500 receiving yards last year. Jonathan Nance, a transfer from Arkansas, led the way with 458 yards. TE Albert Okwuegbunam had a team-high 6 touchdown catches. Both are gone.
Mizzou needs a couple of receivers to step up in a big way if they’re going to have success this fall. I don’t care who the guys are, but if I had to guess, I’d say Virginia Tech transfer Damon Hazelton would be 1 of them. It would be nice to see Jalen Knox put together a big year, as he has a ton of talent but hasn’t been able to find his fit in the offense thus far.
Another couple of guys to keep an eye on are Keke Chism, a graduate transfer from D II Angelo State who has generated some buzz this summer, and redshirt junior Barrett Banister, who was arguably Mizzou’s top receiver down the stretch last season.
One thing is for sure — if the Tigers don’t have at least a couple of guys flirting with 800 receiving yards, it’s going to be a long year offensively.
4. Win time of possession (30+ minutes)
This is a number that probably indicates that I’m still traumatized from the Josh Heupel era as Mizzou’s offensive coordinator. In 2016 and 2017, the Tigers finished dead last in the SEC in time of possession. They were much better in 2018 and 2019 under Derek Dooley, but the efficiency took a dive (particularly last year).
With Rountree leading the running game, the Tigers should be able to control the clock in most games. Also, if Robinson is the quarterback, he adds a potential rushing element with his legs. Hold the ball, stay in games. The defense should be fine if it doesn’t have to be on the field too much.
5. 1,000 all-purpose yards for Tyler Badie
Badie is the Tigers’ most-versatile offensive weapon. He had 457 yards and 3 touchdowns as a rusher and 356 yards and 5 scores as a receiver. He is dangerous in space and can even return kickoffs when needed.
Drinkwitz will certainly recognize the weapon he has in Badie and find ways to put him in favorable matchups, whether he’s coming out of the backfield or lined up in the slot. This will be a great year for Badie to show what he can do for NFL scouts.
If I were Drinkwitz, I’d also make sure to have plenty of plays where both Badie and Rountree are on the field. That should open up the field for everyone on the Mizzou offense to make plays, even against the tougher SEC defenses on the schedule.