Mizzou football: 5 realistic goals for 2019 offseason
The Missouri Tigers have improved their win totals each of the past two seasons, going from 7 wins to 8 between 2017 and 2018. Still, there’s much to be desired, as Barry Odom’s squad has gone 0-2 in bowl games the past two years and have some other devastating losses on their resume.
Heading into the offseason, though, there’s plenty of room for optimism. First, the Tigers return several offensive weapons. Second, they replace outgoing star QB Drew Lock with a guy who has played in a College Football Playoff title game in former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant.
The defense will have some questions, but this team should have the potential to improve to 9 (or more) wins in 2019. First, though, there are some goals that need to be met before next fall.
Here are five realistic goals Odom and the Tigers can strive to accomplish this spring and summer before the 2019 campaign kicks off:
1. Develop chemistry between Kelly Bryant and the receivers
We saw it a bit this year — Drew Lock was in sync with Emanuel Hall, Johnathon Johnson, Albert Okwuegbunam and the older receivers, but freshmen like Jalen Knox and Kam Scott took awhile to develop chemistry with the senior quarterback.
With Bryant taking over as the starter in 2019, he needs to get on campus and get together with Albert O, Johnson, Knox, Scott and the rest of the receiving corps and make sure he learns their skills and tendencies inside and out.
Yes, the Mizzou offense will probably be even more reliant on the run in 2019 than it was in 2018, but the threat of the pass still needs to be there to keep defenses honest. Bryant has the weapons in place to be successful, so now it’s up to him to make the most of them.
2. Develop depth in the secondary
The Mizzou secondary was exposed a bit in the Liberty Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Every key contributor from 2018 will return next fall, with the notable exception of S Cam Hilton, who had 2 interceptions in the bowl game.
However, even with those guys coming back, it’s not enough. The Tigers need more depth and they need it as soon as possible.
Fortunately for Odom’s defense, the Tigers signed a 4-star safety to their 2019 class, and he could be ready to step into a starting role by Week 1. Look for Jalani Williams to make an impact this fall.
3. Find some new leaders on defense
Losing DL Terry Beckner Jr., LB Terez Hall and S Cam Hilton won’t be easy. Not only were those guys talented players, they were also leaders in the locker room and on the field.
The 2019 defense figures to be led by star LB Cale Garrett, but he’s going to need some guys to step up and help him lead that unit. CB DeMarkus Acy is a good bet to be the main guy in the secondary, but there needs to be a new leader along the defensive line.
Who will that be? Jordan Elliott is a good candidate. The former Texas lineman had eight tackles for loss and three sacks this year. Let’s see if he can do more in 2019.
4. Keep the recruiting momentum going
Odom is finally on pace not to finish the 2019 recruiting cycle with the No. 43 class in the nation and the No. 13 class in the SEC, something he did in 2018, 2017 and 2016 shockingly. Currently, the Tigers do have the No. 13 class in the SEC, but the national rank is much better at No. 34, per the 247Sports composite.
Odom has made some major progress in recruiting the St. Louis area this year, and there are still a couple of intriguing players unsigned from the area. It’ll be interesting to see how Odom and his staff handle the four or five remaining spots in the 2019 class.
Speaking of recruiting …
5. Land 4-star JUCO DL Chester Graves
Graves, a talented pass rusher out of the Kansas City area, was signed by Ole Miss as part of the Rebels’ 2017 class, but ended up at Iowa Western Community College instead. He could be ready to rejoin the Power 5 conferences as a member of the 2019 class, though, and the Tigers are trending positively for him.
As the No. 2 JUCO prospect in the nation, per the 247Sports composite, Graves would likely be a starter next fall. That would be a big boost for the Tiger defense and Odom needs to do what he can to make sure it happens.