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Mizzou Musings: 4 Brewing Questions for Mizzou Football.

Photo credit: Mizzou Athletics

The Missouri Tigers pulled out a 29-27 hard fought win against the Arkansas Razorbacks on November 25th. They wrapped up their regular season and finished 6-6, becoming bowl eligible. However, even with the victory, the Tigers weren't selected for one of the SEC's mid-tier Pool of Six Bowls. Instead, they were selected for one of the SEC's two lower tier bowls.

Mizzou will play Wake Forest in the Gasperilla Bowl on December 23rd in Tampa Florida. Now, several questions arise about Mizzou Football heading into the Gasparilla Bowl and beyond. These questions involve the Transfer Portal, Quarterbacks, and the staff going forward.

Let's get to it:

How has Drinkwitz managed the Transfer Portal?

One thing Gary Pinkel never had to deal with when he arrived in 2000, was trying to manage the Transfer Portal. It didn't exist as we know it today.

This is one of the challenges Eli Drinkwitz faces as he tries to build a roster capable of contending for the SEC East. Of course, Drinkwitz isn't the only coach struggling to keep a stable roster. Most FBS programs, including in the SEC, are struggling with having their rosters picked apart by other schools.

Nonetheless, Coach Drink has done a credible job going into the Transfer Portal and replacing talent. For every Mekhi Wingo and Daniel Parker lost, there is a Joseph Charleston and Ty'Ron Harper gained.

As I write this, the Tigers have lost through the portal this year, receiver Dominic Lovett, safety Jalani Williams, cornerback D.J. Jackson, DB L.J. Hewitt, linebackers Zack Lovett and Devin NIcholson, defensive end Travion Ford, and quarterback Tyler Macon. With the Portal open until January 19th, more will likely follow.

Losing Lovett, the SEC's third leading receiver, hurts and the others will impact depth as Mizzou prepares for the Gasperilla Bowl. But Drinkwitz will have his opportunity to dip into the Portal to replace any lost talent, or even improve the roster.

Is Brady Cook or Sam Horn the Quarterback of the future for Mizzou?

That's the question facing Eli Drinkwitz as he moves into the postseason and eventually Spring Practice. Tyler Macon is gone and unless, Coach Drink goes into the Transfer Portal for help, it's really down to Cook and Horn.

That being said, Horn, literally has no experience. So, it would seem Brady Cook has the upper hand going forward. Additionally, in the upcoming bowl game, barring an injury, Cook will be the starter.

The much criticized Cook, has shown gradual improvement since the bye week. He completed 66% of his passes for 1,293 yards, with eight touchdowns, and only throwing one interception.

Against Arkansas, Cook went 16-26 for 242 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 138 yards and another touchdown. The sophomore QB spread his passes around to five different receivers, and for most part avoided costly mistakes. He did have two bloopers that could've been costly. A thrown interception on a two-point conversion attempt, and he took a sack that put a Harrison Mevis' missed 55 yard field goal attempt back six yards.

Still, on a third and four from Mizzou's 20 yard line, Cook completed a clutch 22-yard pass late in the game to receiver Mekhi Miller. The pass completion forced Arkansas to burn to two more timeouts, which really ended the game.

Cook will get a chance to further solidify his position going into next year with a good outing against Wake Forest in the Gasperilla Bowl. Wake Forest will be a tough opponent for the Tigers, and give Cook another opportunity to prove if he is the quarterback to lead Mizzou to the next level.

Should Bush Hamdan be the next Offensive Coordinator?

When Eli Drinkwitz's contract extension was announced, it included more money for staff. Drinkwitz said one of the changes he might consider to his staff would be adding an Offensive Coordinator.

Although a decision hasn't been made, it appears Quarterbacks Coach Bush Hamdan is getting a tryout for the position. And why not? Hamdan has extensive offensive coaching experience at the college level,and even some at the NFL level.

Prior to joining Drinkwtiz at Mizzou in 2020, Hamdan served four seasons under Chris Peterson at the University of Washington. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he was the Offensive coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach for the Huskies. Prior to his tenure at Washington, he was the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach at Davidson, and co-Offensive Coordinator at Arkansas State. He also has NCAA coaching experience at Sacramento State, Florida, and Maryland. Additionally, Hamdan coached quarterback Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons during the 2017 season.

Hamdan has been the primary play caller for Mizzou during their last three games. If this is a test, Hamdan appears to be passing with flying colors.

Prior to Hamdan taking over the play calling, the Tigers had averaged only 17.5 ppg in their previous seven games. During the last three games, Mizzou has averaged 32.6 ppg.

Also, a definite improvement has been seen with Brady Cook. Cook has produced 3 of his 4 best quarterback ratings of the season, averaging 161.6 during the three-game span.

The Gasperilla Bowl could be Bush Hamdan's final exam for the Offensive Coordinator position.

Is the program on the verge of turning a corner?

It's been a frustrating season with vexing close losses to Auburn, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky, along with embarrassing blow-out losses to Kansas State and Tennessee.

Nevertheless, in the four close losses, there is one identifiable play in each game that could've change the outcome. If one ill-timed penalty on offense or a turnover doesn't happen, the Tigers could be 10-2.

Don't laugh, it was that close. Instead of playing in the Gasparilla Bowl, Mizzou could have been in the Orange or Sugar Bowl.

To be fair, most realistic preseason expectations for Mizzou in 2022, was a 7-5 record. Had Harrison Mavis made an 26-yard FG at Auburn, or Nathaniel Peat doesn't fumble before crossing the end zone during overtime, Mizzou is 7-5.

Improvements have been made in 2022. The hiring of Blake Baker as Defensive Coordinator has seen the defense improve from one of the SEC's worst defenses in 2021, to one of the SEC's best this year. Furthermore, as stated, Bush Hamdan seems to have made an positive impact on the offense.

What needs to happen next? A win against Wake Forest in the Gasperilla Bowl would be nice. After all, finishing 7-6 sounds a lot better than 6-7. Another strong recruiting class would be an additional good sign.

Maybe the corner hasn't turned just yet. But hopefully, it's close.

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