Join Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter for his live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday

Join Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter for his live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday

Bring your Tigers football, basketball and recruiting questions, and talk to Dave Matter in a live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday.

    Hello, chatters. Welcome back for more. I'll be here for the next couple hours to take your questions. Make sure you've checked out this week's Mizzou video with me and Ben Frederickson and the return of the Eye on the Tigers podcast. I visited with former Mizzou coach Dave Steckel, who is launching a broadcast career and will be on the SEC Network-Plus call Saturday for Mizzou-SEMO.

    Eye On The Tigers: How Mizzou’s struggling defense can improve

    Ben Frederickson and Dave Matter discuss defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ big challenge.

    The Eye on the Tigers podcast returns with former Mizzou coach-turned-broadcaster Dave Steckel

    Post-Dispatch Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter reviews the good, bad and ugly from the Tigers’ 35-28 loss at Kentucky and then visits with former MU defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.
    Dave, it’s my early impression that the offense and special teams are capable of delivering the “hoped for” 2021 season (8-9 wins), but the defense looks like a 6-6 team. How do you view the team after two games?
    I'd agree for the most part. The offense was good enough Saturday to beat a top-half of the SEC team on the road. Badie has been incredible. Bazelak has been very solid. I was impressed with his game Saturday. The receivers and the O-line don't feature any superstars, but they're serviceable. In the kicking game, Mizzou's in good hands with the core specialists.
    Now, the defense. That's a problem. First game it was tackling. Second game was more of a matter of physicality. It reminded me of last year's game at Tennessee. In both games, Mizzou was never out of the game but Tennessee and Kentucky were always in control because they controlled the line of scrimmage, notably with their O-line. Missouri hasn't been very good at linebacker, and when your D-line can't shed blocks or get penetration that just puts more pressure on those linebackers. Can the Tigers improve in these areas? Well, they can't add any free agents, so they're going to have to figure out with the pieces in place. 
    Wilks headed up to the booth for birdseye view? Was there some play calling miscommunication? Since we were picked to lose this one anyway I guess I can take a pass on that.
    Yes, as I wrote about yesterday, there was a major miscommunication mistake to open the Kentucky game. Whoever was in the booth and responsible for recognizing Kentucky's personnel package relayed to the sideline that UK was in a jumbo package. Wilks responded with a heavy five-man D-line (five DL, two linebackers, three safeties and one cornerback.) But it turns out UK was in its base package - and nearly scored on the second play with the 64-yard jet. 
    Wilks will indeed move up to the box on Saturday. It should be noted that before the season he made it sound like he'd reconsider coaching from the sideline after the first few games. 
    Bazelak plays this many quarters?
    If things go right Saturday he won't play the fourth quarter. I suspect he'll get some work in the third quarter. If it's a competitive game, he'll be on the field as long as he needs to be.
    Davey Cleo, What hat will Luther Burden be wearing on 10/20/21?
  • Mizzou has a great chance. I'm not going to set any odds or make any predictions. If he's already 100-percent decided then he could just make his choice now. He tweeted that he'll announce his final three on Friday. I assume Mizzou and Georgia will make the cut. Who's the third? Oklahoma? Alabama? Florida?
    Hello Dave,
    I am assuming the bulk of the chat today will focus on the Tigers defensive issues and negativity around the poor line play so my comment will flip.
    I saw a young team and coach fight back Saturday. We tied the game up. That's a BIG positive!
    Maybe the most rewarding thing about college sports is experiencing player development. I am confident under solid coaching we can get a lot better with our line play on both sides of the ball. Let's be patient.
    Agree?
    I agree that Mizzou did a nice job of making just enough plays to stay in the game. But you don't get extra credit for not quitting. Kentucky never led by more than two touchdowns. Of course Mizzou should have kept fighting. Had they given up it would have been a major indictment of Drinkwitz, his staff and his players. 
    I'll quibble with one word in  your question: Young. This isn't a young team. As I wrote Wednesday, 62 percent of the snaps on offense and defense have been played by players who signed with Mizzou under the previous staff. And the bulk of the Drinkwitz additions who are playing major snaps are older players: Chism, Maietti, Alldredge, Evans.
    Only three players who signed under Drinkwitz have played 75 snaps through two games, all on defense: Rakestraw, Carlies and Abrams-Draine. The offense is almost entirely Odom's team. The defense is a combination of the two regimes but still mostly Odom players. 
    So Mizzou defense is 124 out of 130 teams. After two games! Terrible! Steve Wilks was an NFL coach.....is he just not adapting to the college game? Well obviously...but do NFL coaches schemes just not translate to the college game? Are you worried yet? I am!
    A couple factors here that I think might be making the transition a little trickier than some people considered....
    1. It's been more than 15 years since Wilks has coached at the college level, which means for 15 years his defense has had three or four preseason games to "work the kinks out" as he said this week.
    2. On top of that, NFL training camps are longer than college preseason camps, which have become drastically streamlined through NCAA legislation the last few years. NFL teams can throw a lot more material at their players in terms of schemes and adjustments and scouting reports. 
    Now, those aren't excuses by any means. He's making more money than any Mizzou assistant coach in the program's history. He was hired to run this defense immediately - not after two weeks of the season. To his credit, Wilks made it clear this week he blames himself for the struggles. He admitted he might have to cut back on the defense's complexities. But sometimes you can't make the right adjustments to your way of doing things until you experience the games and have to manage through some adversity. We'll see if things unfold differently next week. I won't take anything away from the SEMO game, unless of course the defense continues to struggle at the point of attack and give up so many uncontested yards. 
    Which would have better for Mizzou football this week: Preparing for and play FCS SEMO or a bye week?
    Play a game. You can work on your own problems while preparing for SEMO and playing a game. There's always more urgency when there's a game at the end of the week. It's better to have your bye later in the year when you need some physical and mental rest.
    I didn't get to watch any of the game last Saturday due to being in a friend's wedding (some friend, I know). What went wrong?
  • IWe've covered it pretty exhaustively the last few days at STLtoday.com. Check out all the headlines here.

    Mizzou News | Missouri Football 

    In short, the defense can't get a stop, can't get a push at the point of attack, can't disrupt the opponent's plans and has to rely way too much on the linebackers and safeties to clean up their mess. 
  • Mizzou has lost about a dozen defensive players to the transfer portal in the past 12 months. Which of those departures are really hurting the team now. If none, they must have been really poor players.
    Mizzou has lost a handful of defensive players to the portal but only two who resurfaced at Power 5 schools: D-linemen Markel Utsey and Tre Williams, both now at Arkansas. I think they genuinely miss Williams on the field. He wasn't an All-SEC player, and he could be a handful off the field sometimes, but he'd help this current D-line. Pre PFF, through two games, Williams leads the Hogs' D-line in snaps (84), leads the entire team in pressures (nine), hurries (six) and hits on the QB (three). I'm not sure Utsey would be much of a difference-maker for this Mizzou DT rotation.
    Linebackers Aubrey Miller and Jamal Brooks are at Jackson State and South Alabama, respectively, and playing a lot, though at a lower level than the SEC.
    Cornerback Adam Sparks is at Louisiana-Monroe. He wouldn't be playing much at Mizzou. Jarvis Ware (UCF) would be able to help this secondary. Same for Jadarrius Perkins (Florida). But if Perkins and Ware stay at Mizzou, MU probably doesn't land the two Tulsa transfers. 
    Are the Razorbacks that good or are the Longhorns that bad? You can't answer both...
    I'd buy stock in the Hogs. It's a veteran defense with some proven players in Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool, Jalen Catalon and Tre Williams. It's year two in Barry Odom's defense. They're tough and physical. The O-line has played pretty well. KJ Jefferson is growing into the starting QB role. He's got some weapons around him. That doesn't mean they still won't finish last in the SEC West. It's a brutal division, and other than LSU everyone is undefeated. Mississippi State has an impressive win over NC State. Ole Miss is a legit top 25 team and now has a credible defense. Auburn is still a bit of a mystery because of the weak schedule but has a huge credibility game at Penn State on Saturday. 
    I haven't watched Texas closely, but if the young QB develops quickly, they can still win eight or nine games in the Big 12.
    With the recent changes in the Big 12, any ideas on Mizzou wrestling’s future?
    The Big 12 isn't going anywhere for now. Whatever happens Mizzou will be tethered to Oklahoma because the Sooners will be in the same situation. Remember, there's only four other real Big 12 teams that wrestle: the two Oklahoma schools, West Virginia and Iowa State. The rest of the Big 12 wrestling league is mid-major programs, mostly from out West. Those programs will still need a wrestling league, same as Iowa State and Oklahoma State. I suspect they'll all stick together.
    Has Coach Drinkwitz ever explained why he chose to punt on the 4th Quarter 4th & 4 (near midfield) vs going for it? Given how our defense was struggling to stop UK, it felt like a crucial time in game to take the ball out of our offense’ hands.
    I didn't ask him, but here's how I'd guess he'd answer.
    There were almost nine minutes left. A little early to start risking possessions in a one-possession game. Mizzou still had its timeouts. The ball was in MU territory. You're giving UK a relatively short field if you don't get the first down. MU's defense had been playing better, forcing punts on two of the last three series. On the road with plenty of time left, the prudent move is to force Kentucky to march the length of the field to make it a two-possession game. McKinniss was having a good game. 
    I believe that you picked us to lose at BC next week. Has your opinion changed since their quarterback is out?
  • I'll make next week's prediction next week, but I'd give Missouri a better chance without Phil Jurkovec. But the Tigers still have to stop BC's running game. And if SEMO is able to move the ball on Saturday ... uh oh.
    What changes or modifications do you believe Wilks might make to the defense?
    I don't expect any major schematic changes. He's a four-man front, nickel defense guy. That's his identity as a defensive coach - and it's one of the reasons Drinkwitz hired him. From what I've seen, the guys in the front six have been in position to make plays. They just can't get off blocks. The opponents' O-line are winning the 1-on-1 battles up front. Backs aren't getting touched until the second and third level.
    Was Drinks Funbelt Winning App St team better this MIZ team? Talent wise
    It's hard to measure, but his 2019 App State team beat North Carolina and South Carolina and swept a good Louisiana-Lafayette team. It wasn't an dominant  defensive team by any means. They gave up 30 points four times under his watch.
    Before the start of the season the coaching staff indicated that the defensive line would be the strength of the team. Obviously that's not the case. How could the coaches be that far off?
    Most of the time they said that it was more like, 'The defensive line needs to be the strength of the team.' Or, 'The D-line should be the strength of the team.' That was based mostly on all the returning experience. Guys like Turner and Byers and Whiteside had played a ton of snaps in SEC games. Jeffcoat had a breakthrough 2020. They really liked McGuire and Robinson as third-year players. Clearly, though, that group hasn't been very good outside of some second-half sacks in the opener.
    Who was in the booth to make the defensive calls? Were they position coaches or analysts or combination? curious who made the wrong call at the beginning of the UK game
    From what I could gather looking down on the field during the game, most if not all the position coaches were on the field. It must have been a grad assistant. The analysts are prohibited from doing any game-day coaching.
    Wilks needs to be fired yesterday. What a clown. He makes your boy Odom seem competent.
    Scheme or talent? What's the biggest reason the defense has struggled so much?
    Related question, is Kentucky a more talented team than Mizzou?
  • Kentucky is absolutely more talented than Missouri. I don't think that's up for debate. If we're looking at recruiting rankings, UK's average class from 2015-21 was, on average, six spots higher than Mizzou's average class (No. 33 to No. 39). It's one thing if you have one or two classes that are better, but if over seven years you're on average six classes better, that's quite a discrepancy. Also, MU's classes over that time came in a wide range, as high as No. 25 and as low as the 50s. UK's classes ranged from No. 25 to 38. The Cats have been way more consistent.
    UK's experienced transfers are better players and came from Power 5 programs: Levis (Penn State), Robinson (Nebraska), Rosenthal (LSU), compared to Mizzou's transfers from Rice, Tulsa and Montana State. (MU also has Mookie Cooper from Ohio State, but he never played there.)
    From 2015-21, Kentucky signed 27 four-star players.
    Mizzou signed 12 - and just five who are still on the team. (This is per 247Sports.com's national composite rankings - so, not just one site's ratings.)
    As for the scheme or talent question, I brought up some of the NFL-to-college transition issues that I think might be factoring into the struggles. But more than anything, this appears to be a talent issue. Let's not pretend that all these Mizzou D-linemen returned to college because they love the college life so much more than what they could be doing in the NFL. There's just not obvious NFL talent on that line. 
  • Any news on Kevin Coleman? The recruiting boards have him as a Seminole lock. I had never heard of Jacksonville State until they beat the Noles at home. At this point really no reason to "fear the spear"
    Again, I haven't heard any Mizzou buzz around Kevin Coleman at any point in the process other than he visited campus for a camp earlier this summer.
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