Welcome to the first annual Mizzou Monday Mailbag where, each week, I will be answering topical (and sometimes sarcastic) Mizzou related questions. Have questions you want answered? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josh Barker asks: What is the ceiling for the 2019 Tiger football team? Do we see a more run-focused attack with the running QB and two top-notch running backs?
The Tigers return over 1,600 yards of production from Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie, add in an emerging force like Simi Bakare and it’s easy to deduce that 2019 will be a continuation of the run-heavy offense we saw in 2018. Remember, Drew Lock’s touchdown numbers dropped from 44 to 28 under offensive coordinator Derek Dooley so add Kelly Bryan tto the mix and you should even more of a physical running attack.
As far as the ceiling goes, this team has a chance to be even better than it was in 2018 despite the loss of Drew Lock and Terry Beckner Jr. Obviously, NCAA sanctions will be hanging over Mizzou’s head and it may be during the season before we find out if the team will be eligible for post-season play. I would say the ceiling is 10-2 with 9-3 very likely and a team that could be in contention for the SEC east late in the season (even if it can’t play in the title game).
Noah Gronniger asks: Obviously the hire of Cuonzo Martin with his ties to St. Louis and being able to snag the Porter twins was a no brainer at the time. Knowing what we know now, do you still feel Cuonzo is the man for the job? Also, if given the chance do you feel Mizzou would like to have this hire back and have hired someone else at that time instead of Cuonzo and if so, who?
I do feel that Cuonzo Martin is the man for the job at Mizzou. Obviously, what has occurred with the Porters is just one giant Mizzou-esq bummer. The hype surrounding Michael Porter’s flip to Missouri coupled with Martin’s hire brought immediate optimism to a starved fan-base. The team managed to get to the NCAA Tournament without Michael Porter which set lofty expectations for 2019, which certainly were almost impossible to meet after the loss of Jontay Porter to injury. Add to that a key injury to the team’s best shooter in Mark Smith, constant foul trouble for Jeremiah Tilmon and the season became a wash pretty quickly.
The Tigers have a meager four wins in conference play but should have beaten LSU (who is tied for first place in the SEC) and lost several other close games down the stretch because they just didn’t have the horses or experience to finish games. Missouri adds two solid recruits in Mario McKinney and Tray Jackson next year and a healthy Mark Smith/Dru Smith becoming eligible should make this squad competitive again immediately.
Bill DeSha asks: Will Mizzou ever make a Final Four? Will Martin finally break the code and recruit well in St. Louis? Which player gets injured next FB/basketball season? How many touchdowns will Kelly Bryant account for? Will Barry Odom be at Mizzou for 10 years? How many Mizzou legacy babies will Drew and Sophie have?
- Tough call. They haven’t yet and history is not on their side. Have to start getting to the tournament regularly, earning top seeds to have a great shot.
- As far as Martin cracking the STL code, perhaps Mario McKinney is the beginning of the avalanche on the west side of the state. There have been so many misses over the years that you have to hope Martin can start pulling in some of these kids, despite the misses that have already occurred like Courtney Ramey.
- Key injuries in football are to be expected but basketball has been devastating the last two years. Can’t speculate specific names but you have to assume some kind of devastation is likely.
- TD’s for KB…Let’s go with 19 TD passes and 8 rushing.
- Drew and Sophie are not officially dating according to Andy Lock, but the hypothetical children from these two could certainly be pretty special.
Tony DiGiovanni asks: Why isn’t #44 hanging from the rafters yet? What is it going to take?
Tony, a lot of Mizzou fans would love to see Anthony Peeler’s #44 hanging from Mizzou arena. He is one of the more purely talented players in school history and turned in legendary performances against teams like Kansas and Arkansas that helped add to his heroics. We just saw Derrick Chievous’ number get retired and John Brown’s is next.
Athletic Director Jim Sterk has changed some of the criteria to have a number retired at the school and according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Dave Matter, there are no plans to retire Peeler’s number at this time as he doesn’t meet enough of the criteria. He meets at least three (multiple all-conference selection, All-American, conference player of the year), but he never won a major award in the NBA even though he had a long career and he didn’t set any conference records in college like Derrick Chievous did.
Jeffery Miller asks: The question was asked by a reporter after the UK game whether the effort of the team proves they’ve bought into the system. Cuonzo basically stated he knows they’ve bought in and doesn’t question it. Do you think he questions it in the back of his mind? Does he have a reason to question it? I can tell you one thing, the Alumni that leave 1/3 of the televised sideline seats empty against a top-5 team sure haven’t bought in this season.
Obviously, this took place a couple weeks ago, so apologies for just now getting to this question. It seemed to me that Martin was simply trying to motivate his young team and to send a message about what he’s looking for. I think it’s clear that most of these guys have bought in (as evidenced by the effort put forth in most games despite mostly poor results). We saw them break through and get a win Saturday against South Carolina and I think it’s very possibly this group grows up in a big way next year.
As far as attendance goes, it’s down across the board in college sports. The arena was sold out last year for the Porter season, but the product this year has been, largely, terrible and people just aren’t going to show up for that. I don’t believe that it’s a Mizzou thing as much as it is an indictment on college athletics attendance in general. We know Kansas, Duke, Kentucky etc. are going to be packed regardless, but college basketball has taken a bit of a fan hit the past decade with one-and-done’s, transfers, corruption and officiating turning many away.