Connor Bazelak's star potential gives Missouri hope
If you were to ask SEC fans who are the top 5 quarterbacks in the league right now, I doubt Connor Bazelak would come to mind, but it should.
Bazelak is No. 3 in the conference in passing just behind Will Rogers of Mississippi State and Matt Corral of Ole Miss, and ahead of Max Johnson of LSU and Bryce Young of Alabama.
Pretty impressive for a guy who is just in his second season as a starter. But if you followed Bazelak last year, you saw glimpses of what he would be today. As most know, Bazelak is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year.
But if you told most Missouri fans that he was just a few minutes from leading his team to a 3-0 start, some might not have believed you. Bazelak has become the type of weapon at quarterback they haven’t had since Drew Lock.
Lock’s Tigers were always competitive and dangerous to any ranked team they faced. In 2017, Lock set the SEC record (since broken) with 44 TD passes. He also passed for nearly 4,000 yards. More important, Lock led the Tigers to a bowl game after they started the season 1-5.
Bazelak will likely be over 1,000 yards by the end of the month and he has already thrown for 9 touchdowns, which is tied for 3rd in the SEC. He only threw 7 TD passes last season.
He may not be Lock, but Mizzou certainly is leaning on him every bit as much as it did with Lock. It’s early, but Bazelak is averaging more pass attempts per game (37.2) than Lock did in 2017 (32.2).
Eli Drinkwitz’s team relied heavily on former running back Larry Rountree III and with good reason, he was excellent. The same can be said with Tyler Badie, who has also emerged as a star for this team, too.
But it must give Drinkwitz some satisfaction knowing that Missouri is never really out of the game with Bazelak at the helm.
All you have to do is check out the Kentucky game to know that. Behind Bazelak’s arm, the Tigers erased a 14-point deficit and tied the score at 28 in the fourth quarter.
Bazelak threw 4 TD passes in that game. But before the season even began, Drinkwitz wondered if his quarterback would believe his own press clippings and not come into the season prepared.
The head coach said this about his quarterback in The Kansas City Star.
“Last year, not a lot of pressure coming in and performing. Now he’s had an offseason of everybody telling him how good he is and patting him on the back. We’ll find out how much Kool-Aid he drank or how much focus he’s had.
“I think he’s got the right stuff. “I believe we’ve prepared him the right way. But praise and blame are the same. You can’t get caught up in it either way.”
Bazelak could have done like a lot of other quarterbacks have done recently and packed his bags and not initially winning the starting job, but he rode it out.
He quickly supplanted Shawn Robinson and has remained in control since. It’s a nice story, especially considering there was some worry that Bazelak may not bounce back quickly from his ACL injury that he suffered at the end of his freshman year.
Teammates like wide receiver Keke Chism, back Bazelak 100%.
“He’s already a great leader, being so young,” Chism told reporters. “Just for him, it was all about taking that next step, and I feel like he’s done that within this offense. He’s learned so much in so little time to where he has total control of this offense.
“And we’re 100% behind him.”
The sky’s the limit for Bazelak and this offense. If they continue to play well, they may exceed expectations. They aren’t contenders to win the SEC East, but they can make a lot of teams in that division uncomfortable.