Mizzou football: 4 most critical position battles for 2020
The Missouri Tigers will enter the 2020 season with a number of question marks and several new faces. New coach Eliah Drinkwitz will have limited scholarships to work with, due to NCAA penalties handed down last year, but he’ll also be tasked with improving on the Tigers’ 6-6 record from 2019.
While he tackles that task, he’ll have a number of key position battles to navigate. The Tigers have some important positions that need filled on the field, and finding the right guys for those jobs will be crucial to the team’s success this fall.
So, what positions are up for grabs? And who will win those battles? Let’s break down the 4 most important position battles Mizzou faces heading into the 2020 season:
Shawn Robinson vs. Connor Bazelak vs. Taylor Powell
What to expect: Quarterback is, by far, the most important position on the football field. The Tigers replaced the legendary Drew Lock with Kelly Bryant last year, but the Clemson graduate transfer was only a 1-year rental. Now, they’re faced with another position battle.
The favorite has to be TCU transfer Shawn Robinson. Robinson sat out the 2019 season, per NCAA transfer rules, but now has 2 years of eligibility left. The Tigers and new coach Drinkwitz even brought in a former TCU assistant — Curtis Luper — as the offensive coordinator. That has to be seen as a great sign for Robinson.
Joining him in the mix for the starting job will be Taylor Powell and Connor Bazelak. Unfortunately, Bazelak suffered a torn ACL in the season finale against Arkansas and might not be ready for spring practices. That, obviously, will hurt him. Meanwhile, Powell has the most experience, but with a new coaching staff coming in, that won’t matter as much as it would have if Barry Odom and OC Derek Dooley were still around.
Incoming freshman Brady Cook could also work his way into this mix, but I see him redshirting this year and entering 2021 with a chance to earn the backup role.
Projected winner: Shawn Robinson
2. Tight end
Daniel Parker Jr. vs. Niko Hea vs. Messiah Swinson vs. Brendan Scales
What to expect: Parker and Hea contributed in 2019, with Parker grabbing 15 passes for 140 yards and Hea snagging 3 passes for 30 yards. Neither scored a touchdown, as Albert Okwuegbunam posted 26 catches for 306 yards and 6 scores.
Don’t expect anyone to replace the skill and production Albert O brought to the position, especially since Parker and Hea are bigger guys who are better at blocking. Still, Parker made some nice catches last year and could get a bigger role in 2020.
The guy to watch, though, is Swinson. If he can progress this spring and summer, he could get a lot of looks from whoever the new quarterback ends up being.
Projected winner: Daniel Parker Jr.
Sean Koetting vs. Josh Dodge vs. Harrison Mevis
What to expect:
Tucker McCann served as punter and kicker last year, and fared pretty well, considering how unique that is. Yes, he probably would have done better had he stuck with one job or the other, but Mizzou needed him to do both, and he stepped up and did it.
Koetting and Dodge were on the roster in 2019, but neither could take one of McCann’s jobs from him. They’ll both have another chance to claim a starting spot this fall.
Mevis joins the Tigers as the No. 8 overall kicker in the 2020 class. He’ll have a chance to win the starting kicking job right away, but I doubt he’ll be asked to punt and kick.
Projected winners: Harrison Mevis (kicker) and Josh Dodge (punter)
4. Left tackle
Hyrin White vs. Larry Borom vs. Bobby Lawrence
What to expect: White and Borom are likely to start in 2020, but the left tackle spot is the premier position on the offensive line. Now that Yasir Durant has graduated, Borom and White will be the next in line to protect the Mizzou QB’s blind side.
Borom got a lot of work at right tackle in 2019, so it remains to be seen if he’s more comfortable there or if the Tigers want him to move to the left side and install White at right tackle. Lawrence was listed as Durant’s backup last year, so he’ll have a chance to win the job, too.
Considering the struggles the Mizzou line had last season, this will be an important battle in Drinkwitz’s first year. This is also a spot where Drinkwitz could consider adding a graduate transfer or a JUCO player to add depth to the position.
Projected winner: Larry Borom