Although spring football practice is on hold due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 and the current global pandemic, the Georgia football rosters are still set for the fall. Coming off a 12-2 season, the Bulldogs head into the 2020 season with high expectations. Bulldawg Illustrated is analyzing each opponent in a twelve part series that will continue for the next several weeks.
Coming off yesterday’s scouting report of Auburn, we move on ahead to Missouri. The Tigers have a fairly easy schedule coming into their matchup with Georgia, but they also did last year as well. This will be Georgia’s seventh game of the season, and the following week will be an off week before the annual matchup in Jacksonville with Florida.
Head Coach: Eliah Drinkwitz
2019: 6-6, 3-5 SEC; didn’t receive a bowl birth due to NCAA ban
Key Returnees: running backs Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, wide receivers Kam Scott and Jalen Knox, offensive linemen Case Cook and Larry Borom, defensive linemen Kobie Whitseside, Tre Williams and Chris Turner, linebackers Nick Bolton and Cameron Wilkins, and defensive backs Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe
Key Losses: quarterback Kelly Bryant, wide receiver Jonathan Nance, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, offensive linemen Yasir Durant, Trystan Colon-Castillo and Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, defensive lineman Jordan Elliott, linebacker Cale Garrett and defensive back DeMarkus Acy
1) Eliah Drinkwitz’s Inaugural Season
After parting ways with Barry Odom in 2019, the Missouri Tigers athletic association hired former Appalachian State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz to replace him.
In 2019, he led Appalachian State to a 13-1 record and a win over U.A.B. in the New Orleans Bowl in his first season as the head coach. Prior to landing in Boone, he had gigs at N.C. State, Boise State, Arkansas State, and Auburn. In fact, he was a quality control assistant under Gene Chizik on that 2010 national championship team. He brings with him eight new coaches to the Tigers’ staff.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Missouri was one of a handful of programs that got spring practice in before everything was shut down. That may prove to be a slight edge for the Tigers heading into Drinkwitz’s first season with the team.
2) Change at Quarterback
Former Clemson and Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant has exhausted his eligibility, and that means that the Tigers will be looking for his replacement in 2020.
Backup Taylor Powell has the most experience and played in Bryant’s absence last season. Powell completed 29 of 62 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Connor Bazelak and TCU transfer Shawn Robinson will also be available. In fact, Powell and Bazelak both split time against Georgia last year in their 27-0 loss. Bazelak finished the year completing 15 of 21 passes for 144 yards. For Robinson, in 2018 at TCU, he threw for 1,334 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 230 yards and three scores on the ground as well.
The Tigers offensive scheme will change and the offense will have to adapt to Drinkwitz’s system. In a recent interview with Missouri beat writers, he said that he wasn’t sure of which direction the offense will go in, and that it would depend on who the starter was.
“I don’t know if it’ll be more Ryan Finley-based with throws, or it will be more Zac Thomas-based like it was at App with more quarterback-driven runs out of the pocket, that kind of stuff. It’ll just depend on who our quarterback is.”
3) Tremendous Tandem at Running Back
Larry Rountree III returns for his senior season, and will be one of the most talented backs the Bulldogs face next year. In his three seasons in Columbia, Rountree has rushed for 2,748 yards and 26 touchdowns. Rountree has only rushed for over 30 yards against Georgia once in three contests, but he’s still a very strong back that can carry the load when needed.
Rising junior Tyler Badie adds some depth to the position, and is an energetic player to watch out of the backfield. In his career, Badie has racked up 897 rushing yards and two scores on the ground, but also has hauled in 44 receptions for 486 yards with five touchdowns. Badie is very comparable to Georgia’s running back James Cook.
Drinkwitz is an offense-minded coach, and at Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans ran for 1,484 yards in 2019 and as a team the Mountaineers totaled 3,240. While at N.C. State, the Wolfpack had a 1,000 yard rusher every season he was there. Expect Rountree and Badie’s numbers to go up in 2020.
4) Ryan Walters and the Secondary
The transition from Odom to Drinkwitz will be interesting to watch, and with eight new coaches on the staff there will be a lot of turnover. But one of two coaches Drinkwitz decided to keep was defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. Walters will be entering his fifth season with the Tigers, and a strongpoint of his is is showcasing the secondary in his 4-2-5 defense.
Walters, who coaches the safeties, will have plenty of experience returning with four of six guys coming back. The one role that Missouri needs filled in the secondary is at boundary safety, which is the Tigers version of the STAR. Missouri’s second and third leading tacklers, Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe, both have returned for their senior year. Those two will lead the unit and are players to watch for at that open position.
At cornerback, three-year starter DeMarkus Acy has used up all of his eligibility, and won’t be with the team next year. However, at the opposite end of the field, Jarvis Ware returns with veteran experience. Ware missed some playing last season, so Christian Holmes and Adam Sparks took reps in his place.
Walter’s group is very physical, but one thing he said in the offseason that they can improve on for next year is the amount of pass interference penalties. They also need to be a better job of creating turnovers, and he thinks his secondary will vastly improve in those two categories this season.
5) Leadership On the Front Seven
Senior linebacker Cale Garrett was having a great 2019 with 43 total tackles before being plagued by an injury. Despite only playing in five games, his total was good enough to finish fifth on the team. Nick Bolton came into replace Garrett, and ended up leading the team with 103 tackles last season, which was second best in the SEC. He is a guy who will be called up again to lead the defense, but will need some help.
On the defensive line, Kobie Whiteside will be given the responsibility of taking on Jordan Elliot’s job. Whiteside finished 2019 with 27 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Defensive end Chris Turner returns with experience as well as Markell Utsey and Akial Byers.
Early Prediction: UGA wins 34-14