7 way-too-early predictions for Mizzou’s offense in 2022
Mizzou’s offense the past couple of years has been pretty simple. In 2020, the Tigers handed it to Larry Rountree III in important situations. In 2021, it was Tyler Badie’s turn to be the star, and all he did was set Mizzou’s single-season rushing record.
This year, the Tigers will have to be more versatile on offense, even as they enter the summer without a starting quarterback in place.
So, how can coach Eli Drinkwitz get the most of his offense this fall? Here are a few way-too-early predictions about things we’ll see out of the Tigers this coming season:
1. Tyler Macon will be the Week 1 QB
Brady Cook and Tyler Macon battled it out this spring as the competition to replace Connor Bazelak (who left for Indiana this offseason) began. But Drinkwitz didn’t name a QB1 following spring practices, and for good reason.
First, 4-star freshman Sam Horn hasn’t had his say yet, as he will join the squad this summer. Also, there’s reason to believe that the Tigers could still be looking to bring in a transfer to compete for the starting quarterback job.
So far on that front, though, the Tigers have struck out. They pursued Jayden Daniels (who ended up at LSU), JT Daniels (who ended up at West Virginia) and Gerry Bohanon (who just committed to USF).
Looking into 2 of those 3 quarterbacks, though, you’ll notice that Daniels and Bohanon are both dual-threat guys. Macon fits that bill a bit more than Cook, although Cook can run more than Bazelak. If Macon can grow as a passer between now and the start of fall camp, he should turn some heads before Week 1.
If he impresses in the buildup to the season and the Tigers continue not to add a quarterback through the portal, I like Macon’s chances of being the Week 1 starter.
2. Nathaniel Peat will be a top-5 SEC running back
Peat is a Columbia native and heads home after spending the last 3 seasons at Stanford. He’ll be faced with the unenviable task of replacing Badie, but he could turn out to be a nice surprise for the Tigers.
He ran 79 times for 404 yards last season, good for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. He also had 3 rushing touchdowns. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, by any means, but he did lead the Cardinal in rushing yards. He also averaged more yards per carry than Stanford’s other main running back, Austin Jones. Jones posted only 378 yards on 107 carries.
At Mizzou, Drinkwitz prefers to have 1 go-to running back. Peat should be that guy in 2022, and with a veteran offensive line in place (more on that later), he should have plenty of room to run.
The Tigers like to have balance offensively, adding to the list of reasons why Peat could post some healthy numbers and finish as a top 5 running back in the SEC this season.
3. Luther Burden will make his presence felt as the season goes on
He’s not going to become a star just yet, so Mizzou fans will need to temper their expectations. But the 5-star freshman receiver figures to contribute as a punt returner right away and should get plenty of offensive opportunities out of the gates in Week 1.
As he develops chemistry with his new quarterback and figures out what it takes to compete in the SEC, his star should rise quickly.
He has too much strength and speed not to be an immediate factor in the Tigers’ offense. With Tauskie Dove as a vertical threat, Burden and former Ohio State transfer Mookie Cooper should have some opportunities to do damage on underneath routes.
Then, as the season goes on and Burden gets more experience under his belt, hopefully Drinkwitz will expand the playbook and Burden’s route tree, which should lead to some highlight-reel plays from the talented East St. Louis native.
4. Mizzou will improve on last year’s scoring average
Mizzou averaged 29.1 points per game in 2021, tied with Mississippi State for 9th in the SEC. That wasn’t a bad showing, but considering the Tigers allowed 33.1 points per game (13th in the SEC), it wasn’t good enough.
This fall, Drinkwitz should have more options at his disposal. And, entering Year 3 in the SEC, it’s time for him to learn what does and doesn’t work against the league’s elite defenses.
Stretching the field with side-to-side runs and lots of pre-snap motion may have worked against Sun Belt teams, but SEC linebackers are fast enough and smart enough to react to those plays and stop them in their tracks.
I’m counting on Drinkwitz to make some adjustments and get the offense firing on all cylinders this fall. It’s time to see some improvement with the play-calling.
5. Mookie Cooper will finally have his breakout season
Cooper arrived in Columbia with major expectations in 2021. But, he suffered an injury before the season and rushed back, which didn’t help his recovery. Thus, last season was basically a lost one for the former Ohio State Buckeye.
In 7 games, Cooper made only 17 catches for 194 yards and 1 touchdown. He also only had 9 carries for 18 yards.
If Cooper can stay healthy through fall camp this season, expect him to finally flash that potential that led to him being on Ohio State’s radar back during his recruitment.
Lining up opposite Luther Burden will force defenses to guard 2 very speedy, very athletic, very smart receivers. The big-play potential is evident with the Tigers’ new receiving corps. Cooper should be a big beneficiary of that.
6. An experienced offensive line will be consistent all year
The Tigers have plenty of options along the offensive line who have experience. Hyrin White started 11 games as a tackle last year. Luke Griffin played in all 13 games at guard, starting 6. Connor Wood played in 12 games and made 8 starts at the other guard spot. Xavier Delgado played in 12 games and made 8 starts. Zeke Powell and Bobby Lawrence got plenty of experience as backups.
Then there’s Javon Foster, who started every game at left tackle last year for the Tigers. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the third-best SEC tackle when it came to run blocking.
The biggest question mark is center Connor Tollison, who takes over for Michael Maietti. Maietti won’t be easy to replace after making a big impact following his transfer from Rutgers.
Still, all those starts and games played will only benefit Mizzou’s offense. When you have your starting left tackle coming back, that’s a great place to start. Then, everywhere else but center, the Tigers have lots of experience.
7. The Tigers’ red-zone passing attack will be better
This one is purely out of necessity, as the Tigers won’t be able to get close to the goal line and simply have Rountree or Badie pound the ball into the end zone. That’s seemingly been their only real strategy the past couple of seasons.
Whoever wins the starting job between Cook or Macon (or potentially someone else) will be a bigger threat as a runner than Bazelak was in 2021. Peat will be a solid back both as a receiver and a runner.
But expect Cooper and Burden to be options down in tight spaces. New tight end Tyler Stephens, a Buffalo transfer, is 6-6, so he should get involved near the goal line, too.