Mizzou football: 5 things I want to see during Saturday’s spring game
The Missouri Tigers are getting ready to conclude spring practices with their annual spring game Saturday at Faurot Field, and it’ll be interesting to watch.
Unlike last year, when the Tigers were intentionally boring (more on that later), there should be plenty of excitement around this year’s contest. As Mizzou officials battle harsh sanctions from the NCAA, the immediate future of the program is unclear, but there’s still reason to hope that the postseason ban will be lifted.
Therefore, fans will want to get a good look at a team that returns a lot of talent from 2018 and coach Barry Odom will need to make sure excitement remains high as the NCAA battle wears on.
That said, here are five things I’ll be watching for during Saturday’s scrimmage at Faurot Field:
1. Kelly Bryant airing it out
Bryant is not Drew Lock, but let’s see him do his best Lock impression Saturday. Last year, the Tigers took a lot of deep shots, relying on Lock’s cannon right arm and Emanuel Hall’s amazing speed and big-play ability.
This year, the offense will naturally be a little bit different to best take advantage of Bryant’s strengths. OC Derek Dooley won’t want to show off too much of the new-look offense, so why not let Bryant air it out to guys like Jalen Knox, Kam Scott, Johnathon Johnson and others for the first couple of drives?
2. A cohesive offensive line
A huge part of Mizzou’s success the past two seasons was a largely unchanged offensive line. This year, though, they need to replace two key guys in Paul Adams and Kevin Pendleton.
There’s plenty of talent to fill those spots, but lines need to work well as a unit, so it’ll be important to see how things look Saturday. The running game has been outstanding the past two years, and if that’s going to continue, whoever fills in for Adams and Pendleton are going to need to be strong from Day 1.
3. A healthy Albert O
Albert Okwuegbunam might not even be in Columbia right now if not for a shoulder injury that sidelined him for several games in 2018. The tall tight end is an incredible talent and will one day be one of the first tight ends off the board in the NFL Draft.
He could even work his way into first-round consideration for the 2020 NFL Draft if he has a big 2019 season, so that makes his health all the more important. I’d like to see him get in the game Saturday for a bit and then bow out and begin preparations for the summer.
He doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) play much, but it would be nice to show fans that he’s healthy and snag a couple of passes from Bryant.
4. The Jordan Elliott takeover
Elliott switched his jersey to No. 1 this offseason, and that puts even more expectations on him heading into 2019. With Terry Beckner Jr. off to the NFL, Elliott will be the guy along the defensive line.
The 6-4, 315-pound defensive tackle recorded 24 tackles (8 for a loss) and 3 sacks in 2018, but he’ll need to have an even better year in 2019 to become an intriguing NFL prospect. He could be the next D-Line U player to go on to great things in the NFL, but first, he needs to dominate for the Tigers.
Pro Football Focus named him a second-team All-SEC player last year, though, so the talent is certainly there for him to break out in a big way.
5. The team having fun
Last year, Odom said he wanted the spring game to be as boring as watching paint dry, and for the most part, it was. This year, things seem a bit different around the program, especially as the Tigers continue to fight NCAA sanctions.
Therefore, I hope Odom lets Dooley open up the offense and run a few fun trick plays to get the fans excited and put Bryant in position to do some exciting things. They don’t have to show off much of the actual offense, but that doesn’t mean the game has to put people to sleep, either.
A good balance would be nice, so we’ll see what happens at Faurot Field on Saturday.
Saturday’s spring game will kick off at 3 p.m. Central time and can be seen on ESPNU.