Talk Mizzou sports with Dave Matter in his live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday

Talk Mizzou sports with Dave Matter in his live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday

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

    Hey there, Mizzou chatters. We have an actual game to talk about today. Let's dive into the Alabama game and look ahead to the Tennessee game on Saturday. I'll be in Knoxville for kickoff ... but first, we chat.
    Loved your new article following the Bama game with the PFF information. It really helps to see where there are opportunities for improvement (or exploit) on the team. I don't recall seeing how the interior of the D-Line managed. How did they do?. Also, would it be possible to look at upcoming opponents to see where the O and D might be trying to attack?. Well done, sir.
    I'm glad readers are enjoying the PFF content. I figured that this year, with access to the team a challenge from week to week, it would enhance our coverage to add the PFF grades. 
    As for the interior of the D-line, here's how the D-tackles and the D-ends (non rush OLB) graded:
    OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE
    Utsey: 63.4
    Robinson: 59.9
    Whiteside: 59.6
    Byers: 55.4
    Turner: 46.0
    McGuire: 44.2
    PASS RUSH
    Whiteside: 68.8
    Utsey: 61.5
    Byers: 61.4
    Robinson: 56.0
    McGuire: 55.9
    Turner: 53.6
    PFF considers grades of 70 or higher to be starter quality at this level. So, not a great night for the big guys on the D-line. I know that Whiteside made it pretty clear to his coaches right after the game that he realized he didn't play up to his standard. I'd expect better production from this group against teams that have mere mortals along the offensive line. 
     
    Playing that Buck linebacker spot, Tre Williams and Trajan Jeffcoat were both productive and collapsed the pocket a few times. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters was especially pleased with Jeffcoat. 
    "Listen, you know, Alabama gave up 11 sacks last year. So the fact that we were back there and got to him, I think that trend will will carry us through the rest of the season. So I don't want overreact to week 1 deals, especially.
    with who we we were playing against."
    As for future opponents, yes, I'll use the PFF stats in our game previews. Stay tuned. 
    At a glance, it appears that the Tennesee winning streak wasn't against top tier competition. This gives me some hope for the game Saturday. Also, I think the point spread may be a little high too. Thoughts?
    The seven-game winning streak includes a couple wins against decent teams, last year's Kentucky team especially. Indiana was an eight-win team in the regular sesaon and lost to UT in the Gator Bowl. UAB was one of the better Group of 5 teams. That said, like I wrote in today's paper, the Vols mostly beat up on the worst teams in the SEC last year: Vandy, South Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi State. But they deserve credit for that. Gary Pinkel's best teams got to where they were by beating most of the teams they should have beaten in 2007-08 and 2013-14. 
    I do think the point spread is about right. Tennessee's program is just a few steps farther along than Missouri. They've learned how to keep games competitive against average to slightly above average teams - and they've learned how to win close games. We can't say the same for Mizzou yet. I'll have my score prediction online tomorrow, but I'm leaning toward UT by a touchdown or more. They're just more proven on both sides of the ball. 
    Jeffcoat was fired up after his sack! Is he generally a pretty excitable or emotional player?. The D Line can sure use that on occasion!
    It's been a long time since anyone has seen him on the field prior to Saturday, but he's definitely someone who brings energy and passion to the field. Here's Ryan Walters on Jeffcoat:  
    "He was such a popular guy on the team when he came back a couple guys were crying tears of joy, like literally crying tears of joy. That's how special of a person he is and how much he meant to the locker room. You guys saw him. He's a a big, fast physical angry kid on the field. And then he's infectious in the locker room."
    Connor Bazelak can sure fire a "pretty" ball. It looks like it has some zip on it too. Is it fair to say that touch and accuracy is a work in progress?. He could still have 2 years as a starter if both he and Shawn Robinson both stay.
    He can put some heat on his passes. I think he's got a lot of upside as a passer. But we haven't really seen him do it long-term yet against a defense that was completely engaged in its game plan. Alabama still had some starters on the field on that final drive, but the Tide had clearly taken its foot off the gas by then. Same thing last year when Bazelak got on the field against Georgia late.
    Also, Robinson showed he can deliver a fastball, too. He threw one so hard to Hazelton he bounced it off his hands. He also showed pretty good touch on the short and intermediate throws all night. 
    Do you have an indication of what the locker room was like after the loss last week?. I'm not into moral victories, but I thought Mizzou held it together and didn't completely fold when faced with adversity.
    Not really. The players we interviewed after the game were pretty down. They weren't talking about any silver linings or trying to find the positives in that loss. They expected to play well and were disappointed with the outcome. That's a good sign.
    Do you think that Mizzou played " better" in the second half or was it more of Saban taking his foot of the gas?
    Both. I thought Missouri executed much better offensively in the second half, other than the turnover. They caught the ball better. They threw the ball better. The O-line seemed to settle in and finish their blocks better. Defensively, MU tackled well the whole game. They got some more pressure on the pocket in the second half. 
    Saban kept his core defenders on the field for most if not all the of the game. The starting cornerbacks and safeties didn't come off the field all night. The two inside linebackers played more than 60 of the 75 snaps. Jaylen Waddle played most of the game, as did most of the O-line. It's natural for a team to coach more conservatively with a 35-3 lead, so I presume Saban dialed back some of his play-calling. He also took out his more experienced QB. But I think you have to give MU some credit for hanging around and not letting the score dictate how it played the game in the second half. 
    I feel like I've seen Chris Turner on the field constantly for the past 2+ years, but he never seems to have any impact. What does the coaching staff like about him that I'm not seeing and why doesn't that translate to on-field success? With the move towards more of a 3-4, would it make sense to start rotating DT's into his spot on the edge and move Turner into a rotation with Tre Williams and Jeffcoat? Whiteside, Byers, Utsey, and Darius Robinson seem to be the more talented players.
    Walters made it pretty clear last night that Turner's position at D-end is not the same as the OLBs on the opposite side, where Williams and Jeffcoat now play. Think of Turner as more of a 3-4 edge-setter. He's a bigger end at 270 pounds. He's never been a guy that gets in the backfield very often, but he's clearly serving some kind of purpose. He probably deserves some credit for the 3.5 tackles for loss that Martez Manuel made playing alongside him as the other outside linebacker/strong safety. He's never put up flashy stats, but PFF has graded him as a solid run defender in past seasons.
    Hey Dave! Which player or players that didn't have great games against Bama do you have the most confidence in to bounce back and still have a solid season. I'd love it if you mention a Defensive lineman here because I'm worried about that position group.
    Kobie Whiteside. I'm not expecting him to match the 6.5 sacks he got last year, but he can get more push inside and be more disruptive than what we saw against Alabama. 
    In the secondary, the young corners gave up some long passes in zone coverage, but I think Burdine and Rakestraw could turn into a pretty good tandem. If Ware comes back from his knee injury then the position is even stronger. 
    Don't give up on KeKe Chism. He was only targeted a couple times even though he played more snaps than any receiver. He'll help this team move the chains. 
    What do you think about Nick Sabin’s comment that he would like a 10 game SEC FB schedule every year? I am for it. I understand teams need to schedule games vs. SEMO, UTMartin, MoSt or Delaware St as a first game in Sept to get all the kinks out of their players before they start conference play. I think the better teams who have a chance to get one of the four slots in the playoffs will probably be against it since that would be another chance to be upset that could eliminate them. Likewise teams that are fighting to get to a 6-6 record and a bowl bid probably would be against it because conference games are more competitive than the early Sept games they play. Any idea if other coaches like this idea?
    Of course the coach of the best team wants to play a 10-game schedule. You won't find the coach at Missouri or Ole Miss or Vanderbilt saying the same thing. I thought Ole Miss AD Keith Carter put it well not too long ago. Paraphrasing here, but he said ideally it would be great for fans to see more SEC games ... but the reality is for a handful of teams in the league, with a 10-game SEC schedule, your ceiling suddenly goes from 8 or 9 wins to 6 or 7. And while the overall product of the schedule might be more appealing, fans aren't going to stomach 6-6 or 7-5 seasons year after year at certain schools. Heck, 6-6 got Barry Odom fired. Joe Moorhead was 14-10 in the regular season in his two years at Mississippi State and the school felt it could do better. Ultimately, fans want to see winning products on the field - so I can understand where coaches and ADs might be wary of brutal schedules that will water down their records. 
    If the Tigers can't get more pressure on the QB we will be in trouble but one question I don't think has been asked is how many contributing players have been affected by quarantine and are they available this week?
    Drinkwitz said there were no new cases as of the team's Sunday test. I don't expect any updates from him prior to kickoff. 
    For all the talk last week about all the players in quarantine, only one player on the depth chart wasn't on the field or the sideline on Saturday. Now, a few more players have since opted out, so they could have been among the players who were expected to be in quarantine. But based on who played Saturday, the game day roster was barely impacted at all by COVID. 
    As for getting more pressure, I think Saturday's game will be a fairer test. Alabama has the best left tackle in college football. Tennessee has some quality, veteran linemen but the Tigers should have an easier time getting into the backfield. If it's a glaring weakness on Saturday, then it's a concern going forward. 
    Good morning, Dave.

    Personally I am getting more than sick and tired of you and other sports journalists not having access it appears of any sort to the Missouri Tigers and other SEC football teams. I realize it is wide spread and, I believe, totally unnecessary. It's not like Drinkwitz has the code to the country's nuclear arsenal. How do we get the Nick Saban mentality out of all these programs and enjoy more engagement with the fans, media and so forth? I believe the current lack of info Coach Drink mentioned yesterday in regards to COVID-19 is simply bizarre and congrats to him and the program for being so forthcoming. Thank you.
    Thanks for the note. I think we're all getting used to the media policies, and my hope is that next year the virus will be less of a factor and we can again interview players and coaches in person. Only four players were made available to the media this week on Zoom and only two assistant coaches. That's far less than what was standard during the Pinkel and Odom years. I'll adapt and adjust like always, but it would be nice to have more voices available to talk about the team. 
    I will be in Knoxville for Saturday's game even though the postgame interviews are on Zoom. I think there's value in being at the stadium in person to capture what happens in real time.
  • Good morning Dave. My question is in regards to the informative list you posted concerning position depth. The list of Punt returners and Kick returners was a wake up call for me. I never played football and don’t claim to understand the ins and outs of playing. I always saw kick and punt returners as one and the same. Even very interchangeable. Please explain to me the nuances of the differences between the two and their specific roles. Thanks !
    When it comes to returning punts, most coaches always say the most important part of the job is securing the ball and making a clean catch. The coverage team gets much closer to the punt returner when he makes the catch compared to the kickoff returnmen, so it's essential that you have someone with strong hands to catch punts. Then the goal is usually to get a return of 10 yards to give your offense an extra first down. Some teams use the same guy for both roles. Jeremy Maclin handled both for MU in 2007-08. Marcus Murphy did both jobs at times during his MU career.
    Hey Dave. Saw some real positives last week despite the daunting opening foe. Loved the three headed kicking game, especially Mevis (who's built like a linebacker) kicking with authority and accuracy. Also, Rountree planting Dylan Moses when they collided on a right side run. If the O line can hold its ground, and the two QBs continue to improve with our two grad transfer big receivers, Coach Drink will find a way. Bottom line, the toughest foe is out of the way ... I think Mizzou might have a surprise for the Vols this weekend.
    Maybe. We'll see. I'm always more cautious with expectations for an unproven team. Show me you can win a game like this and then I'll start expecting it. The core of this team doesn't have much experience going on the road and beating a ranked opponent. Florida in 2018 was the last example - and if you look back at that game's box score - which I just did -  you'll see that only five players started that game who will play significant snaps on Saturday: Rountree, Knox, Turner, Byers and Gillespie.
  • I really liked the offense Saturday, they put themselves in a lot of good situations. I felt like Drink called a really good game, especially considering the talent level he is working withl. So my question is, when we play the teams not named Alabama how productive will this offense be? Are we a 2-3 touchdown per game team or more or less?
    There's plenty to like about this offense's upside. I think once Robinson gets more comfortable behind that O-line ... once the new receivers get into a flow ... once some of the young linemen get acclimated to the game's speed and physicality ... then this team has the parts to score some points. I was impressed by Rountree and the running game. He ran the ball hard and didn't back down against the Tide's front seven. That goes for the O-line, too. The pre-snap motion and misdirection will give this team an edge. They played disciplined offensive football in terms of penalties. The catching has to be cleaner. Drinkwitz said some route decisions have to be better. But there was some promise.
    I've seen pics of players in practice wearing funky looking helmets. Why do they wear those instead of wearing the game helmets? Thanks.
    The extra padding cuts down on the impact of collisions. They don't necessarily eliminate concussions but they reduce the chances for head trauma.
    I heard a rumor that Alabama had to pay Mizzou 500K in order to play them? Is that true?
    The university announced some enrollment figures today for the fall semester: 
    Official enrollment total of 31,105 students, that's up 3.5 percent over last fall.
    MU's overall retention rate is 89.4%. That's a university record and means nearly nine out of 10 MU freshmen returned as sophomores.
    MU’s six-year graduation rate, also a university record, is 73.0%. That's up from 60 % in 2000.
    Also, MU's African American/Black retention rate of 86.0% is up from 81.5% in 2010. The school's six-year African American/Black graduation rate is 62.3%, up from 58.0% in 2010.
    I was taken back by Chisms comment “I don’t throw the ball”. Do you sense a bad attitude?
    He was asked a very fair question. He was clearly disappointed he only caught two passes. Frankly, I'm not sure why anyone requested him for postgame interviews. He was a non-factor in the game.
    Here's what he was asked: "Did you feel like you had to adjust into the game at all and what did you do to get to a point where you're getting more targets?” 
    That's a completely fair question. Receivers can do more to get targeted more often. They can work to get open. They can adjust their routes. They can also say it just wasn't their night and other receivers were more involved. Instead, he said he can't throw the ball to himself, which seemed to undercut his quarterback and maybe even the game plan. 
    On Tuesday Drinkwitz called the question "tacky" and accused the reporter of trying to divide the locker room. That's absurd. It was a football question. If they're going to make the guy available who played 59 snaps but was only targeted twice it's logical that he's going to be asked about that. And, again, there was no problem with the question or the intent behind the question. Drinkwitz clearly didn't like the answer and deflected his public reaction to the reporter. I think he should have handled it privately instead of publicly, but to each his own. 
    Chism isn't used to getting this kind of media attention at this level. He probably shouldn't have said what he said. But from what I've gathered about him, I don't think it reflects anything about his character or attitude. 
    Hi, you posted my question about the practice helmets but does not look like you posted your answer .
    The answer shows up on my feed. If not, here's what I wrote: The extra padding cuts down on the impact of collisions. They don't necessarily eliminate concussions but they reduce the chances for head trauma.
    Changing the subject, when does basketball practice officially start and do the Tigers have a complete schedule yet? Any chance of a Mizzou/SLU battle?
    No schedule yet. What we do know is real practices can officially begin Oct. 14. The first games can be played Nov. 25. SEC men's games can begin Dec. 29-30, with women's games starting Dec. 31. At last check, MU is still working on its nonconference schedule. There will be an emphasis on playing regional games. No telling if that means there could be a SLU-MU matchup. If you're ever going to play that game, this would be the year.
    Dave,
    I watched the full game, am I crazy for coming away feeling that Connor B. Has more upside than Robinson? As I realistic Mizzou fan, we don’t have top level talent like other SEC fans. Robinson had a high completion rate, but never felt like a threat, how many completions over 10 or 20 yards?
    Connors strong arm would really open up the field for our running backs, he seems to have that “IT” factor. We limit ourselves if other teams know they only have to protect against the run and short passes, won’t it help our running backs break out if the other team constantly has to drop their safeties back?
    Our better years have been with QBs who can throw, not Duel threat QBs. If Robinson keeps starting I’m assuming either Connor or the upcoming East St. Louis QB will end up transferring a couple years down the road and both seem to have higher ceilings than Robinson... just my $.02. Connor gives that big play capability feeling and seems like receivers dropped a lot of his passes..
    I'm sorry, but I just haven't seen the body of work for Bazelak to come away with the same analysis. 
    Keep in mind, half of Robinson's six incomplete passes were drops on clean, accurate passes. 
    Here's what I wrote earlier in the week about Robinson's game:
    "Of Robinson’s 25 pass attempts, 21 traveled less than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That was by design against Alabama’s lethal pass rush matched against a suspect offensive line. He completed 15 of those 21 short passes for 104 yards. Beyond 10 yards, he completed all three of his attempts, including the 54-yard TD to Tyler Badie out of the backfield. Robinson was 7 of 9 for 42 yards when under pressure and 9 of 13 for 85 yards when blitzed."
    Considering he hadn't played a game in two years, I thought he was poised and productive considering the competition. 
    Consider this too: His passer rating was 151.4. Only one team posted a better QB rating against Alabama last year: LSU with the Heisman winner at quarterback. 
    Since the 2015 playoffs, here are the QBs who posted a better rating against a Nick Saban defense than Robinson: Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson, Jarrett Stidham and Chad Kelly. That's it. That's more than four years worth of games.
    Bazelak might turn out to be a great passer, but nothing I saw Saturday tells me he should get more snaps than Robinson. Robinson's ability to scramble should help when playing with a suspect offensive line. It will also make Badie and Rountree more of a threat in the zone-read option game. You don't have that threat with Bazelak at QB. 
    As for MU not having success with dual threat QBs, I think you're forgetting about James Franklin. Also, Chase Daniel ran for 380 yards in 2006 and was a productive scrambler every season. Maty Mauk made yards with his legs in an 11-win season. 
    What does UT do well and what will they be vulnerable to from our side?
  • They've got a dangerous edge rusher in Deandre Johnson, a veteran quarterback in Jarrett Gaurantano, who shredded MU's secondary last year. UT likes its O-line - especially now that Cade Mays got his waiver and could play Saturday.
  • The use of Knox and Gicinto does make me think twice about last year’s scheme, but then of course, we had Johnson at that position
    Johnson did not have a good 2019. He was hurt a lot and rarely productive. Banister was the better slot receiver last year. 
    Now MU has three guys at that position in Knox, Gicinto and Banister and Drinkwitz has a far more creative offense to get them open in space to make plays. 
    I saw a stat from the Alabama game that really opened my eyes. According to the ESPN box score, it showed Alabama had 55 tackles ... all solo. I don't think I've ever seen that, before. It tells me two things: Alabama is very good at tackling and maybe Mizzou needs to get a little better at breaking tackles.
    Missouri ran 73 plays from scrimmage, so other than touchdowns, incomplete passes and plays where a ball-carrier runs out of bounds without contact there's always going to be a tackle. MU only scored two touchdowns, only threw a small number of incomplete passes and most of the receptions came in the middle of the field. So, Alabama was bound to make a lot of tackles. According to Alabama's adjusted stats, the Tide had 49 solo tackles and 15 assisted tackles. That sounds about right. Pro Football Focus had Alabama down for 11 missed tackles in the game. That's a lot for a Nick Saban defense. Mizzou had only seven missed tackles.
    I'm going to ask your observational opinion (after all, your experience as a beat writer gives you far more info to pull from than the average bear). The idea that Mizzou is moving toward a 3-4 base seems to me to be the result of the fact that bigger players are simply fast enough to play the role - why have a slightly slower, 6-5, 270-pound DE or even bigger tackle on the field when you can have a somewhat smaller - but faster - hybrid/stand-up edge rusher? Those type of athletes didn't exist (in abundance) a generation ago.
    I think there's some truth to that. This base defense also gives you a chance to be more versatile. That rush end/OLB can stand on two feet and rush the quarterback, can drop into a three-point stance or back off into coverage. It's not all that different from what Walters has run in the past but it's more of a full-time shift to that way of doing things. You didn't always see 265-pound players like Tre Williams or Jeffcoat able to play on two feet like you do in today's game.
    Sorry, but I’m not sorry about the late score or making excuses about it. Bama’s second string may be better than many first strings, and those players are not loafing, they’re trying to make an impression. Saban is noted for harsh criticism of assistants after wins, especially here when they failed to cover the spread.
    The last touchdown was made as time ran out. Why wasn’t there an extra point attempted? Is that optional?
  • Here's what the NCAA rule book says:
    "If a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in the fourth period expires, the try shall not be attempted unless the point(s) would affect the outcome of the game."
    In other words, if the point doesn't change who wins the game, no PAT.
  • Hi Dave. Being at a live game last Saturday night was so welcome and I wasn’t disappointed in the Tigers effort. The position group I have a concern about is the TE position. A lot of throws to Parker we’re zero or short gains. Why not hand the ball off to Rountree instead? Thanks
    Parker made a nice move out in the flat on one of those catches and broke a tackle for a positive gain. He also dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. I don't see him or anyone at that position being a prolific receiver this year. And I don't think that's the plan. If you can get a first down with a pass out into space, then those plays can be valuable. Plays like that can also draw a defender close to the line of scrimmage and set you up for a deeper pattern against single coverage for a bigger play.
    OK, friends. That's all for today. Look for a new podcast this afternoon and coverage from Knoxville on Saturday/Sunday.
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