Observations and takeaways from Missouri football’s spring “game”

Mar 18, 2023 - 7:24 PM
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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri football team took the field at the Devine indoor facility on Saturday for its annual spring “game,” which also falls on family weekend for the program.

The Tigers went through individual drills before playing a scrimmage for roughly one hour.

Here are my main takeaways from what went down on the field:

Defense continues to dominate

Following along with theme of the spring, the Tiger defense is far ahead of the offense at this juncture. In its defense, the offense is operating without 2022 starter Brady Cook at the helm, meaning that no quarterback has full control of the offense right now.

Still, the domination from the defensive side was clearly visible on Saturday. With former defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire in attendance, the front seven especially showed out. Darius Robinson got the party started early on with a sack on the second drive of the scrimmage, and Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. also appeared to be in mid-season form. Robinson made the move to defensive end this spring and has been enjoying his new role.

But newcomers Tre’Vez Johnson and Triston Newson stole the show. Johnson had multiple big hits in the scrimmage, including one that stopped Luther Burden III at the goal line. The defense would go on to get a stop and force a field goal, and the defensive back got plenty of reps with the first team overall.

Newson has been a hot topic this spring, as the freshman out of Independence, MS has made headlines with his speed and ball-hawking ability at linebacker. Newson undercut a Sam Horn slant route and returned it for a touchdown in the scrimmage period, and he appears to be soaring up the depth chart after recording multiple interceptions in camp.

As a whole, the defense allowed two touchdowns on the day. When the team went into red zone situations to close the scrimmage, the defense did not allow a single score.

Rising stars at wide receiver

Luther Burden, Mekhi Miller, Mookie Cooper and Theo Wease Jr. stole most of the headlines in this wide receiver room, but there is some high-quality depth behind them.

Redshirt freshman Ja’Marian Wayne, who has flipped between receiver and defensive back throughout his career with Mizzou, received plenty of targets today. With Burden and Wease Jr. seeing limited snaps and Mekhi Miller (to my knowledge) not taking the field today, Wayne had some opportunities to make an impact. The quarterbacks found him on plenty of short crossing and swing routes, and Wayne was able to create some big plays in space and scored one of the offense’s touchdowns.

Demariyon “Peanut” Houston was hindered by injury for much of last season, but WR coach Jacob Peeler believes he is a guy that could break out during this upcoming season. Houston had almost as many touches as Wayne on Saturday and stood out just as much.

Redshirt-junior Micah Manning also had a great link-up with Jake Garcia over the middle and could be another name to watch in fall camp.

Evaluating the quarterbacks

Three quarterbacks saw the field for Mizzou on Saturday with Brady Cook still sidelined due to labrum surgery.

Sam Horn generally led the first-string offense, and his performance could be best described as up-and-down. He found Burden down the field for the most explosive play of the day on his second drive, with the star receiver being stopped just short of the goal line. However, he also missed a couple of open targets and threw the interception to Newson. From what was observed, decision making and working through progressions still appear to be the biggest concerns for Horn.

On the bright side, he did flash his running ability in evading defenders today. By no means is Horn just a statue in the pocket, and some of the moves he put on defenders were impressive.

Miami transfer Jake Garcia is the biggest wild card in the QB room right now. He mainly ran with the second-string offense and had a similarly inconsistent day. The ball certainly pops out of his hand, and the arm talent is very apparent. However, he was inaccurate on a lot of passes and still seems to be picking up Kirby Moore’s offense and developing chemistry with his receivers.

Junior Dylan Laible also saw the field with the third-string, and he impressed early on. The Hutchinson Community College product started out 4-for-4 on his opening drive with some solid check down passes. However, he did struggle as the scrimmage went on.

Other Notes

  • Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado, Connor Tollison, Armand Membou and Marcellus Johnson generally made up the first-string offensive line.
  • Nathaniel Peat had the offense’s other touchdown on the day.
  • There were 5-6 penalties called today (give or take). The defense was called for holding twice, which is typical with how physical the defensive backs like to play.

The Tigers will now close out the rest of the semester before entering their summer workout period. The season opener is set for Sept. 2 against South Dakota at Faurot Field.

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