Eliah Drinkwitz approached Missouri’s most recent off week a little bit differently than the previous one.
When — if — Missouri visits South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. CST Saturday, it will be three weeks since the Tigers played their last game. There was a scheduled bye week then a postponement against Georgia because of positive tests within the Missouri program and subsequent contact tracing. Drinkwitz still had his team scrimmage a full game at 11 a.m. this past Saturday to simulate what would have been the team’s second straight ranked matchup.
“We’ve tried to do the best job possible of maintaining focus and interest and trying to keep some semblance of normalcy,” Drinkwitz said.
The scrimmage offered players reps, and Drinkwitz said they have cross-trained wide receivers to play defensive back and moved Drake Heismeyer to the defensive line to help with numbers at different positions.
“We’re trying to do everything possible for us to have the ability to play,” Drinkwitz said.
Missouri has 56 scholarship players available right now for the South Carolina game, close to the 53-player threshold created by the Southeastern Conference, and the team will undergo two more COVID-19 tests this week. It has had a few additional positive tests since Drinkwitz updated reporters during the SEC conference call last Wednesday. He said Tuesday that the total number of players available is “really limited.”
Offensive lineman Larry Borom is questionable, and Xavier Delgado is “questionable to doubtful” for Saturday’s game. Defensive tackle Kobie Whiteside is “questionable at best,” and tight end Daniel Parker Jr. is doubtful. Luke Griffin is expected to make his first college start at left guard with Spencer out for at least the first half because of a suspension.
In addition to injuries, linebacker Chad Bailey, offensive lineman Dylan Spencer and defensive end Markell Utsey are suspended for the first half. Drinkwitz said that one of those players will be available for the second half of the game but did not say who. All three were listed on the depth chart released Tuesday, but the public release did not reflect what Drinkwitz told local reporters.
“I don’t know what our final roster number will look like,” Drinkwitz said. “We are committed to playing this week. We want to play. Our players want to play, and we’ll do whatever we can in order to have that opportunity.”
South Carolina is facing roster issues of its own. The team’s top two cornerbacks, Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, along with starting safety R.J. Roderick opted out after the firing of coach Will Muschamp.
Drinkwitz said, however, that Missouri’s preparation for South Carolina revolves more around Missouri and not the opponent
“It’s about us and making sure we execute our job more than trying to figure out who’s going to be playing for them,” Drinkwitz said. “I know that whoever plays is going to be coached up really well. And they have great schemes, and they’re going to put them in a position to be successful.”
Seniors Larry Rountree III, Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe accepted invites to the Senior Bowl, and Drinkwitz said that he has had some “preliminary conversations” with players about the future and whether they want to return for another season.
“At the end of the day, we still have five games left, and there’s a lot of tape still to put out there that can dramatically affect your stock one way or the other,” Drinkwitz said. “So those decisions will probably come at the end of our last game and those conversations between that game and the bowl game.”