The annual Black and Gold spring scrimmage took place inside a windy Faurot Field on Saturday afternoon and while all eyes were on new quarterback Kelly Bryant, the identity of the 2019 Mizzou offense could rest on the shoulders of a stable of talented running backs. Here are five takeaways from the game (which was won by the black squad 21-3).
1.Attendance was solid. You will never confuse spring football games in Columbia, Missouri with places like Lincoln, Knoxville or Tuscaloosa, but approx. 18,000 showed up to watch a glorified practice that involves a team that (as of now) is not eligible to play in a bowl game this year. Spring games are huge in states where there is no population, cities or pro sports, but Missouri should feel pretty good about current fan support and Barry Odom’s last two teams have proven they can get it done on Saturdays in the Fall (which is far more important than winning spring game attendance battles).
2.Kelly Bryant’s rock star status is already a 10. It didn’t hurt that he went 3 for 3 in leading a scoring drive on the opening possession of the game, but he looked extremely elusive and dynamic in doing so. After the game hundreds of fans flocked to Bryant after the game looking for pictures and autographs and he was more than happy to accommodate them all.
3. The running game is going to be punishing. Not only does Kelly Bryant add an extra deminsion to an already tremendous ground attack but the trio of Larry Roundtree III (9 attempts for 50 yards with 1 TD), Tyler Badie (13 attempts for 46 yards and 1 TD) and Simi Bakare (9 attempts for 39 yards) will likely be the backbone of the Mizzou offense in 2019. Roundtree rushed for over 1,200 yards a year ago and his star has only continued to arrive since arriving in Columbia as a freshman in 2017.
4. The defense could be much improved despite key losses. Mizzou’s defense got off to a very slow start in 2018 and wound up being the 62nd ranked defense in the country by season’s end. Key losses include defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr and linebacker Terez Hall but it’s clear Barry Odom is quietly optimistic about the talent on the defensive side of the ball. Linebaker Cale Garrett is as solid as they come and the secondary should really shine this year with veteran talent like DeMarcus Acy, Christian Holmes, Josh Bledsoe and Ronnell Perkins roaming the backside of the defense. At defensive tackle, expect Jr. Jordan Elliot to be the next big thing for D-Line Zou.
5. This team could be 10-2. When you look at the depth and culture that Barry Odom has almost quietly built at Mizzou, combined with a favorable schedule (that includes five straight home games), you could realistically have a 9 or 10-win team on your hands in 2019. The program has been slowly building momentum since upsetting Arkansas at the end of the 2016 season and you are starting to see the fruits of that labor pay off. Landing Kelly Bryant was huge as far as keeping that momentum going. Add to that a punishing running game, slew of capable receivers and a schedule that trades Alabama for Ole Miss and you could see a perfect storm for the 2019 Tigers. Now, they may not be able to play in a bowl game, which would be a big-time blow, but that sanction could be overturned by September which would set up Missouri as a legitimate contender in the SEC East.