Doak Walker Award finalist Tyler Badie received more accolades for his spectacular 2021 season, earning All-American Second Team honors from multiple outlets and All-SEC Coaches’ First Team honors this week.
Harrison Mevis joined Badie on the All-SEC Coaches’ First Team as the lone place kicker on the team, also earning All-America First Team honors from multiple outlets. Mike Maietti received All-SEC Coaches’ Second Team honors at the center position. All three earned All-SEC First Team honors in the AP’s selection. Freshman defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo was also recognized for his stellar season, earning a spot on the All-SEC Freshman team.
The awards come ahead of the Tigers’ final matchup of the season, taking on the Army Black Knights in the Armed Forces Bowl.
It’s the first bowl game the Tigers are playing in since 2018, as last year’s team couldn’t go to the Music City Bowl against Iowa due to COVID-19 concerns, and 2019’s bowl-eligible team faced a postseason ban from the NCAA. The Armed Forces Bowl will be held in Fort Worth, Texas at TCU’s stadium, marking the seventh time the Tigers will play in a bowl game in Texas since 2006.
“When I got the call from commissioner Sankey, and we had been doing research on the different potential bowls throughout the past week, you know, there’s a level of meaning to this bowl game that’s very special, with the military tie-in,” Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said. “We have a large number of alumni, a large alumni base in the state of Texas, and Dallas specifically.”
Not only is there a large number of alumni from Mizzou in Texas, but the Lone Star State is also the home of many of head coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s players.
“Really excited for our seniors for the opportunity to participate in this bowl game. Obviously it has a special tie-in honoring our service, you know, our armed forces,” Drinkwitz said. “We have Curtis Luper, our running backs coach, is a U.S. Army veteran, and so obviously for us, this is going to be a special bowl game. We have seventeen student-athletes from the state of Texas, so always an opportunity to get closer to home and get into the recruiting grounds of Texas is awesome, and so very excited about playing in this game.”
Blaze Alldredge, who played three years of college football in Texas at Rice University, said that the team is excited about the draw.
“As soon as we got the announcement, you’ve already got guys, you know, you can see the changes in their face,” he said, “and just being back in the hometown, you know, in your home state, I think really gives a lot of guys like a sense of confidence and comfort.”
Thirteen of the SEC’s fourteen teams received bowl berths, three higher than the ten bowls previously slotted for SEC teams. The Gasparilla Bowl, featuring Florida and UCF, and the Birmingham Bowl, an Auburn and Houston matchup, are considered Tier 2 SEC bowl bids, while the Armed Forces Bowl didn’t previously have a bid for the SEC.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether this is an SEC affiliate or not. I think for us, it’s an opportunity to play in a place where… 17 student athletes are from,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve got a large alumni base. It’s a great recruiting ground for us, so for me, it’s a real win-win in what we’re trying to accomplish for this program.”
Army is 8-3 on the season, facing Navy in their final game of the season this Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on CBS. The Black Knights haven’t beaten a Power 5 opponent this season, but they played competitive games against Wisconsin and Wake Forest, the ACC runner-up, using their trademark triple-option offense to barrel through teams at a rate of over 300 rushing yards per game.
“We’ve defended the triple option before. It’s obviously a unique challenge, especially in such a short time frame, so we’ll have to reframe how we organize the next two weeks,” Drinkwitz said, “specifically around finals to get ready for this game. I know defensively, they run a multiple-front. Their defensive coordinator does an outstanding job with mixing coverages and pressures, and plays man-to-man.”
While the Tigers know what to prepare for from a defensive standpoint, their offensive game plan is yet to be determined. Drinkwitz noted that the starting quarterback spot is undecided, giving Brady Cook and Tyler Macon a chance to prove themselves in practice over the inconsistent Connor Bazelak.
“I’ve had conversations with the entire group, and these past two practices have been 100% open competition. Everybody has opportunities with the ones, and you know, really are giving our guys in different scenarios, open field, red zone, end of game scenarios to continue to improve and make game reps and game-like decisions. And, whoever we feel like gives us the best chance to win and move our football team is going to play in the bowl game.”
Drinkwitz also noted that the winner of the team banquet’s MVP award, Badie, is preparing to suit up for the final bowl game.
“He was out there the past two days practicing and getting better, and we anticipate him giving it a go in the bowl game, so very excited about his competitive spirit.”
Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker bested Badie for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s best running back. However, it’s far from a knock against the man who carried the Tigers offense and accumulated the second-most yards from scrimmage in college football this season. He also won the SEC Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year award for his 3.83 GPA in attaining a bachelor’s degree in sport management, the first Tiger to receive the honor. He is currently in his first semester pursuing a master’s degree in athletic administration and positive coaching
However, the Tigers will not have defensive end Jatorian Hansford for their bowl game, as he joined the list of players who announced their entry into the transfer portal. Hansford received more reps as the season progressed and became an impact player down the stretch, earning his lone sack in the win over Florida. It also appears that Akayleb Evans will not be available after declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Messiah Swinson and Ja’Mori Maclin are the only transferring players to have already found a new destination. Swinson announced his commitment to Arizona State earlier in the week, while Maclin committed to North Texas.
For the next two weeks, Drinkwitz and his staff will look to bolster the roster with future Tigers in the recruiting world, visiting with various recruits across the country ahead of the Armed Forces Bowl game on December 22. The Tigers’ most recent commitment came from St. Louis native and Francis Howell tight end Brett Norfleet, who is the first member of Missouri’s 2023 recruiting class. Look for more arising developments as the Tigers pursue a variety of different athletes, including top junior college recruit Jeffrey M’ba, Boonville defensive end DJ Wesolak and potentially Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler.
One big recruiting loss though is the departure of Casey Woods, who served as the Tigers’ tight ends coach and a key part of Missouri’s recruiting efforts during his time at the program. Woods accepted the offensive coordinator job at SMU earlier last week, and Drinkwitz wished him the best and said that the Tigers will focus on finding his replacement after the bowl game.