COLUMBIA, Mo. – Eli Drinkwitz is relinquishing control of the Missouri football team – for a day. The Tigers coach has handed the rosters and personnel for Saturday’s spring game to his players. The Tigers conducted a live draft on Wednesday, with two pairs of captains selecting the teams.
“They run it,” Drinkwitz said this week. “I’ll just be back there to whistle.”
Saturday’s 1 p.m. scrimmage at Memorial Stadium is open to the public and free. It will be broadcast live on SEC Network-Plus. After the game, the players will stay for autographs on Faurot Field.
“We want it to be exciting for the fans,” Drinkwitz said. “We want it to be great for our players and an opportunity to compete. The #1 goal for us was individual player development, and (there’s) no better way to look at that than to give them the chance to let loose and play.
Wide receiver Barrett Banister and defensive end Isaiah McGuire served as Missouri team captains and had Wednesday’s first selection in the player draft, along with quarterback Brady Cook. The Tigers team, led by offensive guard Connor Wood and defensive tackle Darius Robinson, had the next two picks and went with left tackle Javon Foster and linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper.
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For Team Missouri, Cook will throw to announced first-year receiver Luther Burden with wide Banister, Chance Luper and Mookie Cooper, with running backs BJ Harris and Cody Schrader as backfield options. On defense, Banister and McGuire drafted defensive linemen Trajan Jeffcoat and Jayden Jernigan, among others, as well as cornerback DJ Jackson.
Team Tigers took the quarterback to compete with Cook for the starting job. That would be rookie Tyler Macon, whose offensive playmakers include running backs Nate Peat and Elijah Young, as well as receivers Tauskie Dove, Dominic Lovett and JJ Hester.
The captains also drafted two separate coaching packages to call the games. Missouri’s team staff includes defensive coordinator Blake Baker and running game coordinator Marcus Johnson. Team Tigers went with a team of staff members that includes co-defensive coordinator DJ Smith and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan.
Mizzou last drafted teams for the spring scrimmage in the late 1990s when former coach Larry Smith entrusted members of the media with picking the teams. On Saturday, there will be some serious incentives in play.
“Winners get steaks, losers get hot dogs,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s a great moment.”
Saturday’s game will be the first chance for fans to see the quarter-finals competition play out in person, although Drinkwitz warned against reading too much into the results. Quarterbacks will be in white jerseys and cannot be tackled. The Tigers have two more spring workouts next week after Saturday’s game, and Drinkwitz insisted he won’t be posting a depth chart after the spring.
“It’s about the individual development of the players,” he said. “Where are you at? Then you have four and a half months to figure out what your future contribution to our team will be when you show up in August for fall camp. So that’s like a benchmark.
As for quarterback competition, another contender is expected on campus this weekend: former USC and Georgia starter JT Daniels, the 2021 preseason Heisman Trophy favorite who won’t only played five games with the Bulldogs last fall.
Daniels, hampered by a back injury during Georgia’s run to the national championship, visited Oregon State and is expected to decide between the Beavers, Mizzou and West Virginia. If he chose the Tigers, Daniels would give Drinkwitz much-needed experience in the role and possibly send current candidates rushing to new schools.
Four-star rookie Sam Horn joins the mix this summer as a rookie, but a commitment from Daniels would strongly signal he’s the pick for 2022.