Missouri held its quasi-scrimmage spring football game on Saturday at Devine Pavillion after canceling the traditional game due to “space limitations” and weather. The team has a couple of closed practices left before spring ball is officially open, but with over 80% of the practices being finished, it’s a good time to see what offensive players impressed during spring ball.
1. Luther Burden III
With the departure of All-Southeastern Conference second-team wide receiver Dominic Lovett it was widely expected for Luther Burden III to fill the role of the No. 1 wide receiver, particularly in the slot. So far this spring, he’s delivered, and that was on display during the scrimmage when he connected with Horn on a deep post across the middle to go with a handful of other catches.
The spacing the slot position provides seems to pair well with Burden’s elusiveness, short-area quickness and route running, and offensive coordinator Kirby Moore is expecting Burden to be a focal part of the offense in 2023.
“Naturally, the slot has been a highly targeted receiver within the offenses I have been a part of,” Moore said earlier in the spring. “So, whether that’s individual, whether that’s the matchups, whether it’s the first read in terms of the progression 一 there’s a number of different reasons why I think he’s going to have a big year.
“Well, when you think about slot receivers there’s a certain burst and quickness,” Moore said. “He does a good job at the top end of his routes and hand-eye coordination. He makes some tough catches over the middle. He’s a bigger slot. Sometimes people play smaller slots, but I would argue if you have a bigger slot he has more catch radius and the quarterback can see him.”
Last season, Burden recorded 45 receptions for 375 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns (six receiving, two rushing and a punt return) mostly lined up on the outside.
2. Dylan Laible
Someone who always seems to come up during Drinkwitz’s press conferences is the progression of Dylan Laible, who was the first quarterback to lead a touchdown drive, albeit against the third string, during the scrimmage when he threw a pass to Ja’Marion Wayne in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown.
Laible has take advantage of the extra snaps he’s had in lieu of Brady Cook’s absence and seems. For now, it still seems to be a two-man race for the starting quarterback spot between Jake Garcia and Horn before it turns into a three-man race when Cook returns from injury. However, Laible’s quick progression may force Drinkwitz to think about seriously considering adding him to the position battle.
“I’ve been really impressed with Dylan Laible,” Drinkwitz said. “He has taken an advantage of every rep that he’s gotten and he’s really played well and makes really good throws and decisions. You can tell he’s played a lot of football and that the speed of the game doesn’t bother him 一 and he’s been able to quickly grasp our system.”
The Hutchinson C.C. (KS) transfer passed for 2,319 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions a season ago.
3. Theo Wease
Oklahoma wide receiver transfer Theo Wease has appeared to have made an immediate impact on the wide receiver room in his couple of months here in Columbia. Despite not being featured in the scrimmage he’s still shown flashes throughout the spring.
“Theo might be the best trash talker on the wide receiver side of the ball and that’s really stood out to me,” Drinkwitz said. “But he has been effective catching the ball vertically downfield and he’s made a couple of big-time catches whether it was one slot fade outside nine-ball (during Tuesday’s practice). So, that’s been good to see he’s got to be more consistent on some intermediate throws and catches but he is doing some things that will complement us. Allowing him to play the outside receiver with Chance (Luper) still not being full speed allows Luther to play the slot.”
At the moment it appears, Wease is the frontrunner to take over the starting spot left behind Tauskie Dove, who transferred to Memphis.
“I think Theo has done a nice job,” Moore said. “He’s got more 一 to his credit 一twitch than I anticipated which is a good thing. He finds ways to separate within the concept, so he’s going to have the ability to move around with his experience playing college football and just understanding the concepts. That’s a positive for us.”
Wease recorded 19 receptions for 378 yards and four touchdowns last season.
4. Mookie Cooper
The former Ohio State Buckeye is entering year three in Columbia and could see a bigger role for the Tigers in 2023 and it seems he’s preparing for that not only on the field but off of it.
“Just watching the film seeing what I’m doing every day that’s wrong and just trying to fix it the next day,” Cooper said. “Trying to eliminate my mistakes. Last season, I was just watching if I got the ball really, and now this year I’m just really watching every play even if I’m not in. Learning from other guys’ mistakes and learning off of what they did good and just trying to dial it into my game.”
It could be those newfound film habits that have made Cooper one of the Tigers’ practice players of the day multiple times throughout the spring.
“I think Mookie has done a good job of being position flexible, but one of the things about Mookie 一 we did a study on since he’s been here he’s got about a 34% explosive play rate,” Drinkwitz said. “So, 34% of the time the ball is in his hands he creates an explosive play. So, trying to understand how we get the ball in the open field so he can do that, and limit the things we don’t think are his strengths and play to what his strengths are.”
A season ago, Cooper recorded 25 receptions for 297 yards.
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