ST. LOUIS — The University of Missouri Tigers finished off the 2021 season with a heartbreaking loss to Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
The focus now turns to what should still be an eventful offseason as the team works toward spring practices, as evidenced by Boo Smith’s NFL declaration over the Christmas weekend.
Here are five things to watch. There’s more than that, but this is a good start:
Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz said earlier this month that Al Davis had accepted the full-time role of defensive line coach, a position he assumed on an interim basis when Jethro Franklin was fired early in the season. A contract is still being finalized.
Drinkwitz will need to find a new tight ends coach or to otherwise reorganize his staff to replace Casey Woods, who left to become the offensive coordinator at SMU.
Any staff changes to bring in someone from outside would likely not come until after the February signing period. Last year, Aaron Fletcher was hired as the new defensive backs coach just as spring practices started.
Connor Bazelak’s decision to transfer wasn’t surprising after Brady Cook won the starting job for the bowl game and with the signing of four-star recruit Sam Horn.
Cook was 27 for 34 against Army, throwing for 238 yards, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another. Cook gets a leg up on Tyler Macon as they both head into spring practice.
As others have noted, the ability to transfer once without sitting out a year has, at the very least, put a huge dent into the idea of the backup quarterback if it hasn’t killed it all together. Cook enters next year with three years of eligibility remaining. Macon has four after playing in parts of four games in 2021.
What if Horn never arrives? As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, Horn plays baseball and is open to the idea that his future could be on a diamond and not the gridiron. If he’s drafted and gets the right kind of contract offer, he could skip football.
In that scenario, will the staff see enough from the spring competition that it isn’t forced into a late trip into the transfer portal, or will the team pursue someone out there now just in case?
This is a position Drinkwitz specifically cited as an area of need when it comes to shoring up with the remainder of the 2022 class after Daniel Parker and Messiah Swinson entered the transfer portal.
It left freshman Ryan Hoerstkamp (Washington) as the only healthy scholarship tight end available for the Armed Forces Bowl. Niko Hea (CBC) will be a third-year sophomore in the fall.
After last season, Drinkwitz actively lobbied Mike Maietti to return for his COVID year, but now the Rutgers transfer has exhausted his eligibility after two seasons with the Tigers.
Internally, Connor Tollison and Drake Heismeyer would appear among those most likely to get the opportunity to snap in the spring.
Devin Nicholson and Chad Bailey are the returnees with the most experience in the program, along with rising redshirt senior Wyoming transfer Chuck Hicks, who played in six games in 2021 after joining the team.
The spring would be a big opportunity for rising sophomore Zach Lovett, a three star recruit who played in three games in 2021. So far, the team has only signed one linebacker in the 2022 class, four star recruit Xavier Simmons out of North Carolina.
Antonio Doyle, the former four-star linebacker from Lutheran North who verbally committed to Mizzou before signing with Texas A&M, is in the transfer portal and told KTVI in November he’d already heard from MU, among other schools.