Missouri’s quarterback competition will continue Thursday when the Tigers host FCS foe South Dakota to open their season.
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Incumbent starter Brady Cook and redshirt freshman Sam Horn are both expected to face the Coyotes in Columbia, Mo.
Cook completed 247 of 382 passes for 2,724 yards and 14 touchdowns last season for the Tigers, who finished 6-7 and lost to Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl. He also rushed for 585 yards and six touchdowns.
After recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Cook had a strong camp showing.
“I thought he did a nice job being efficient throwing the football,” Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “He’s really steady, knows the offense, digests plays. He’s a smart, disciplined decision-maker. We’re continuing to improve our third-down efficiency.”
Horn’s downfield passing ability vaulted him in the quarterback competition.
“With Sam … he extends and makes throws down the field that that he makes just because he’s such a big body,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ll see both, I anticipate, in the first game and then kind of play it from there.”
Drinkwitz has turned over play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, who has running backs Cody Schrader (744 yards, nine touchdowns rushing) and Nathaniel Peat (425 yards, two TDs) and a rebuilt offensive line to work with.
Missouri is also seeking a breakout season from sophomore receiver Luther Burden III (45 catches, 375 yards, six TDs).
The Tigers return the bulk of their defense, which ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference last season while holding opponents to an average of 339.9 yards.
But they will play without injured linebacker Chad Bailey, who is a key component in their 4-2-5 scheme. Drinkwitz said Bailey will be sidelined for “21 days, maybe less, maybe more.”
South Dakota, a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, is coming off a 3-8 season.
“This team is different,” coach Bob Nielson said. “The depth of leadership we’ve got on our football team this year is different. As a result of that, our team’s desire to win — their melting together — has also been different. There’s a lot of passion in this football team, which I’m really excited about. Maybe that’s weird coming off the season we had, but that tells us something about the character of the guys we’ve got right now.”
The Coyotes’ offense is led by returning quarterback Aidan Bouman (80-for-132, 892 yards, eight touchdowns last season) and running back Travis Theis (775 yards rushing, five TDs).
South Dakota is also operating with a new offensive coordinator: Josh Davis, who was the passing game coordinator on South Dakota State’s national championship team last season.
“Systematically, we look different,” Nielson said. “The thing that fans will notice the most is multiple formations, more changes in terms of motions and shifts that you see maybe a little bit more on Sundays than you do on Saturdays if you’re a football watcher — by that meaning we look a little bit more like some of the things you see in the NFL opposed to the traditional spread offense in college.”
—Field Level Media