Missouri’s 2017 season gets its unofficial start with the annual Black & Gold spring game on Saturday.
Before the Tigers kick off against the Tigers, SEC Country breaks down the most compelling story lines.
5. Depth issues on the defensive line
“D-Line Zou” is a little depleted this spring. Already without draft-bound junior Charles Harris, Missouri’s defensive line had plenty of attrition. Defensive tackles Terry Beckner Jr. and Markell Utsey are not yet full speed after surgeries on torn ACLs during the 2016 season; both will sit out the spring game.
Defensive end Marcell Frazier is out after breaking his arm a week ago and having surgery. Frazier is supposed to be the top dog of that group in 2017, as his finish to 2016 — 6.5 sacks in the final 3 games— opened eyes. Linebacker-turned defensive end Franklin Agbasimere is out with a broken foot. Finally, Spencer Williams — the No. 1 defensive end at one side on the initial spring depth chart — is transferring to be closer to home.
What’s left? Not much, but it might not be that big a deal. At defensive end, highly touted redshirt freshman Tre Williams got a long look this spring, as did Rashad Brandon, a junior college transfer at defensive tackle. Defensive end Nate Howard looks to make good on the promise he showed as a freshman in 2015.
Missouri has talent on the defensive line, and the spring game on Saturday will showcase the next generation of D-Line Zou.
4. Consistency in the kicking game
To put it mildly, Missouri’s kicking game was not good in 2016. Freshman Tucker McCann, among the highest-rated kickers coming out of high school, missed 6 of 12 field-goal attempts and 4 extra-point tries. It was only the second season since 2008 in which Missouri finished below 70 percent in field-goal percentage; the low in that span was 64 percent in 2011.
The stakes and situations won’t be reminiscent of a real game, but Saturday should be a good barometer for what competition will look like in the fall. McCann is listed as even on the depth chart with transfer Nick Bartolotta. If either (or both) finish the spring game better than 80 percent on field-goal tries, it would be a strong sign of consistency.
3. The next great Missouri running back
Damarea Crockett’s standout freshman season came to a premature end in 2016. His 1-game suspension for a marijuana citation after the Tennessee game meant he finished with 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games. While Crockett is listed as co-starter with senior Ish Witter, he’s without a doubt the most talented player in the backfield. He is positioning himself well among a new crop of star SEC tailbacks, along with Kentucky’s Benny Snell, Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams III and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams.
In a scrimmage that is more ceremonial than competitive, expect to see long, electric runs from Crockett.
2. Drew Lock, QB1
How is Drew Lock not the No. 1 thing to watch in Missouri’s spring game? Well, hang with me here. Lock — like the entire Missouri team — was inconsistent in 2016. When he’s on, Lock is among the best quarterbacks in the SEC. When he’s off, he put up Maukian numbers (SEE: at LSU, at Florida). But at this point, we know Lock will be the starter for 2017. His performance on Saturday, good or bad, is meaningless to what will happen during the 2017 season.
That being said, with nearly the entire offense returning and the defense being inexperienced and banged up, Lock could provide fireworks.
1. TBD, QB2
Missouri quarterbacks not named Drew Lock have appeared in a grand total of 0 college games, throwing a combined 0 passes. While no quarterback on the roster will unseat Lock, Missouri’s staff must find security with the backups in case Lock gets injured — or, perhaps, leaves for the NFL after his junior year.
This spring, there are 2 scholarship quarterbacks backing up Lock. Junior Jack Lowary transferred out of junior college before the 2016 season. Redshirt freshman Micah Wilson was a late addition to the 2016 class and sat out last season. Both players should see extensive action on Saturday as Missouri’s staff tries to put them through stress tests to see if either is ready to be the backup in 2017.
2017 Missouri spring game information
Time: 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT)
Date: Saturday, April 15
Location: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
Parking lot information: Lots open at 8 a.m. CT. All lots except Lot B, S and G are free and open to the public.
What TV channel is broadcasting the 2017 Missouri spring game?
The SEC Network will broadcast the game. Check here to find the SEC Network on your local cable provider.
How can I stream the 2017 Missouri spring game online?
Fans can stream the game via WatchESPN.com or on the WatchESPN app.