How should Eli Drinkwitz handle Mizzou’s QB situation in 2020?
The Missouri Tigers are entering Year 1 under new coach Eli Drinkwitz, who comes over from Appalachian State. Not having spring practices has really had an impact on the team, particularly on offense, where the Tigers are unsettled at the quarterback position.
It is unknown who the starter will be, and it’s not anticipated that Drinkwitz will name a starter publicly until the team takes the field against Alabama on Saturday.
So, who are the competitors for the job? The 2 main guys seem to be TCU transfer Shawn Robinson and last year’s backup, Connor Bazelak. Bazelak tore his ACL in the final game against Arkansas in 2019, but he’s back and in the middle of the QB competition.
What should Drinkwitz do with the position? Let’s take a look at a case for each quarterback and then pick who should get the start against the Crimson Tide:
The case for Shawn Robinson
Shawn Robinson is a familiar name for Mizzou fans, as he was on the roster last year. He wasn’t eligible, though, due to NCAA transfer rules. Still, he spent time getting to know the guys on offense who will be back this year. That will count for something in 2020.
Perhaps Robinson’s best asset is his speed and running ability. In 7 games with TCU in 2018, he ran 49 times for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns. For comparison, 2019 Mizzou QB Kelly Bryant ran 106 times for 242 yards and 1 score. Thankfully, Mizzou’s offensive system will be different than the one Bryant slogged through, which will give Robinson more of a chance to be effective.
When it comes to the passing game, he’s no slouch, either. Check out this bomb he launched against Ohio State a couple of years ago:
Very gd velocity, touch & placement on this 51-yard TD pass by soph QB Shawn Robinson to Jr WR TreVontae Hights for the TD. He’s made a few impressive passes in this game, one to Reagor down the sideline for a big gain. Excited to see how he develops #devy #TCU pic.twitter.com/ZO2GzLjbgr
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) September 17, 2018
He also has plenty of zip on his mid-range passes. This was his second-career pass attempt back in 2017. While he narrowly missed a defender, his arm strength allowed him to fit the ball into the tight window:
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) September 3, 2017
Robinson takes too many risks with his passes and doesn’t always make the right read. Those are the 2 big knocks on his game. In 2018, he had 9 touchdown passes to 8 interceptions. That sort of TD-to-INT ratio isn’t going to cut it in the SEC.
Still, after sitting out last season and developing his game in 2019, Robinson may have seen his in-game processing skills mature a bit. And, he’s the perfect quarterback for the system Drinkwitz ran at Appalachian State last season.
QB Zac Thomas threw for 2,718 yards, 28 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also ran for 440 yards and 7 scores. If Robinson can put up similar numbers, that would be huge for Mizzou.
The potential to have a dual-threat guy like Robinson running the show might be just what Drinkwitz needs to make him the Week 1 starter against Alabama.
The case for Connor Bazelak
If the Tigers had kept the same coaching staff heading into 2020, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bazelak start Week 1. He’s a pro-style quarterback to Robinson’s dual-threat style, and he was the backup to Bryant last year.
He didn’t get a ton of work, as he didn’t throw for any touchdowns or interceptions, but he did complete 15 of his 21 pass attempts for 144 yards. He wouldn’t have been ready for spring practices as he recovered from his knee injury, so that didn’t have too much of an impact on him.
Perhaps the biggest pro of his game compared to Robinson’s is ball control. Robinson is going to take risks, but he’s going to make big plays, too. Bazelak has shown he’s more about mid-range throws and high completion percentages.
If Robinson shows he can’t take care of the ball, Bazelak could get plenty of playing time this fall. Bazelak is more of a Ryan Finley type — the quarterback Drinkwitz worked with at NC State in 2018.
If I were the Tigers’ coach (and I’m not … yet), I’d go with Robinson in Week 1. He’ll likely struggle against Alabama’s defense that is loaded with high-level NFL Draft prospects, but he’s also capable of making a couple of big plays against the Tide.
Drinkwitz is probably looking at Robinson and thinking he can mold him into the sort of player Zac Thomas was for Appalachian State last year. Based on the success that team had, it’s worth a shot. It likely won’t make a difference against Alabama, but it will help build toward future games.