Missouri fans got their first glimpse into what strategies Eli Drinkwitz plans to deploy in Saturday’s 38-19 loss to No. 2 Alabama.
Despite losing to a legitimate national-championship contender, the Tigers aren’t abandoning ship and course correcting after 60 minutes of play.
Most notably, despite playing only two offensive series against the Crimson Tide, Connor Bazelak is still sharing the first-string line for quarterbacks alongside Shawn Robinson, who played every other series of the game on the team’s most recent depth chart released on Tuesday.
In breaking down both players’ performances, Drinkwitz said he takes the holistic approach in evaluation, not discounting mistakes or over-analyzing what went well.
"You either played good or you didn't and right now nobody played well enough to win," Drinkwitz said. "So, we all got to improve. I didn't coach well enough to win. I didn't call plays well enough to win and at the quarterback position, we have to improve."
Drinkwitz cited Tuesday’s COVID-19 news surrounding the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings, with both teams having to contact trace after the Titans had three positive coronavirus cases, putting both team’s games for Sunday in jeopardy.
During a typical season, splitting meaningful snaps at quarterback was an easy way to disrupt a team’s rhythm. Playing during a pandemic could severely shift that thought process.
"I'm comfortable playing multiple guys (for) meaningful snaps throughout the season. I don't think this is going to be a typical season like we've ever had before," Drinkwitz said. "... I don't think we have enough data to think that we're going to be able to go through the entire season with one quarterback. And so, ultimately, I think both guys played well. Both guys competed, both guys gave us exactly what we expected them to give us and both guys will get reps moving forward."
Drinkwitz added the plan was to give Bazelak the first series of the second quarter, not a deviation based on not scoring a touchdown with Robinson behind center before that drive.
Bazelak finished the game 7-of-14 passing for 68 yards, while Robinson went 19-of-25 for 185 yards and a touchdown.
In his first start at Missouri, Robinson recorded a completion percentage of 76%, the best by a Tiger quarterback in a debut since Blaine Gabbert completed 75.8% against Illinois in September 2009.
Personnel and depth chart updates
Tiger linebacker Aubrey Miller is the seventh MU player to opt out of the 2020 season, per Drinkwitz.
Miller is the third Missouri defensive player to opt out for this season after defensive lineman Chris Daniels did so a few weeks back and a team spokesperson announced defensive back Chris Shearin’s opt out on Saturday.
The offensive quartet of wide receivers Maurice Massey and CJay Boone, as well as offensive linemen Jack Buford and Thalen Robinson have also opted out of this season.
Missouri cornerback Jarvis Ware is day-to-day after suffering a knee injury in the first quarter against Alabama and missing the rest of the game. Drinkwitz is hopeful he can play against the Volunteers.
Drinkwitz added the team had zero positive tests from its Sunday round of testing, with results from a Tuesday morning test and a Thursday test left to go before departing for Knoxville.
In addition to the "OR" staying put with the quarterbacks, no clear starter was named at tight end or left tackle for Missouri.
Against Alabama, Daniel Parker Jr. got the start at tight end and Zeke Powell played every snap at left tackle.
Also competing for playing time at tight end is Niko Hea and Logan Christopherson, while Bobby Lawrence is also on the first-string line at left tackle.
Larry Rountree is now the clear starter at running back, with Tyler Badie slotting as the second-team choice. The duo is still expected to handle the bulk of work from the backfield, with Rountree taking the lead.
On defense, no clear starter was named at one of the defensive end spots between Chris Turner and Isaiah McGuire. Turner got the start against the Crimson Tide.
At middle linebacker, Devin Nicholson and Cameron Wilkins share the first-string line, after Nicholson had it to himself and started against Alabama.
Wilkins took over starting middle linebacker duties after Cale Garrett’s season-ending injury last October and held that role for two games before Nicholson took over first-team duties for the last five games of 2019.
After a sack against Alabama, Trajan Jeffcoat was added to the team’s depth chart as a second-string defensive lineman behind starter Tre Williams, who also had a sack and forced a fumble on Saturday.