Mizzou football earned a massive win with the commitment of top-ranked wide receiver Luther Burden last Tuesday.
“I got a good relationship with Coach Drink,” Burden said. “I believe in him and him building and recruiting St Louis. He already got a lot of St. Louis guys up there and we’re gonna rebuild this thing.”
But in the following days of Mizzou’s bye week, the current roster took multiple hits. News broke on Wednesday that Ja’Mori Maclin entered the transfer portal after two years as a Tiger. The redshirt freshman did not break into the wide receiver rotation this season, appearing in two games without a catch. He’s already picked up an offer from North Texas, and that list is likely to grow in the coming weeks.
“I know in the midst of a season there’s all kinds of things and talking points and storylines, but these three guys represent what we want Mizzou to be, and what we want our culture and our football team to be about,” Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz said in the Vanderbilt pregame press conference. “About it’s bigger than yourself, it’s bigger than you. It’s about the brotherhood. It’s about giving everything you’ve got to this football team, and when the chips are good, you’re good, and when the chips are down, you’re still good. And that’s what these three guys are, and we’re going to miss their leadership on the football field. But the great news is we’re not going to miss their presence in our locker room or on our football team. And we’re going to celebrate those guys. And it’s an opportunity for other people to step up and play and contribute. And so we will embrace that opportunity for those guys.”
The most recent blow to the roster came yesterday afternoon when linebacker Jamie Pettway Jr. announced his entrance to the transfer portal. This comes off as a surprise, considering he saw increased snaps as a part of the linebacker rotation in the last two games. This leaves the Tigers’ thinnest position group even thinner, and Steve Wilks will need to scour for contributors alongside Devin Nicholson, Blaze Alldredge and Chad Bailey.
Drinkwitz pinned Connor Wood and EJ Ndoma-Ogar as guys who will see the field more in lieu of Cook’s absence, which is not surprising considering their already-significant roles in the offensive line rotation. Defensively, he mentioned Jatorian Hansford, Arden Walker, Johnny Walker and Cannon York as guys with more opportunity.
Drinkwitz praised the team’s bye week mindset in the face of added adversity.
“I think a lot of our guys took advantage of last week,” Drinkwitz said. “I think this is a hungry group. I sense a lot of people that want to improve, want to get better. Understand we’re not maybe where we wanted to be, but there’s still a lot of opportunity left for us, and the only way to get better is to go to work. And whether it was true freshmen or fifth-year seniors or COVID seniors, I think everybody has, last week, really attacked that, and really Sunday night. We came back and had a good Sunday night practice. I thought there was good energy and excitement about what we were trying to accomplish.”
Other injuries that aren’t season-ending may show up on the Tigers’ Thursday injury report. Kris Abrams-Draine could appear on the list after exiting the game against Texas A&M. Connor Bazelak has even looked dinged up at times, and Drinkwitz acknowledged that the bye week was beneficial for his offensive leader.
“I think time off was good for everybody,” Drinkwitz said. “You know, seven games, I think it was good for everybody. The number one requirement to play the position of quarterback is toughness. Both physical and mental. That’s never going away. You’ve got to be mentally tough to handle the good times and the bad times, to handle the praise and the blame. You’ve got to be physically tough to handle the hits and shots that you’re gonna take, stand in and deliver the ball and he’s had both of those throughout the first seven games.”
Missouri is not alone in combating the injury bug, as Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea reiterated that starting quarterback Ken Seals is day-to-day, leaving Mike Wright as the starter. Wright picked up the start in the Commodores’ 45-6 loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. Thursday should give a clearer picture on Seals’ status ahead of Missouri-Vandertbilt this Saturday, October 30 at 2 p.m.