Year 2 of the Eliah Drinkwitz era is fast approaching, and much has changed at Missouri in the break between seasons, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
But on the opposite end there is a constancy that has spanned almost the entirety of Drinkwitz's time in Columbia.
Missouri is bringing back four offensive coaches who were hired within 60 days of the head coach: Wide receivers and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan, running backs coach Curtis Luper, tight ends coach Casey Woods and offensive line coach Marcus Johnson.
They bring one full season and a spring camp of experience with them into fall camp and the upcoming season, but a lot has changed in some their rooms. As fall camp looms, they each spoke about what has changed and what has stayed the same.
"You're gonna see a lot of Tyler Badie"
Perhaps the biggest change for Missouri is the transition from its stalwart in the backfield, as Larry Rountree III was picked in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers.
Enter stage left: Tyler Badie.
Badie hasn't had a shortage of playing opportunities, serving as Rountree III's backup in 2020, totaling 48 carries for 242 yards and four touchdowns and 28 receptions for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Now he takes the reins. And according to Luper, something in Badie's mindset changed when the starting position became his and his alone.
"He's gained 10 pounds — over 10 pounds — he's gained 12 pounds since the end of last season," Luper said. "It's his time. In his mind, it's his turn."
But Rountree III's absence is sure to be felt. Though for all their differences, Luper noticed similarities between the two.
"They both get first downs and touchdowns," Luper said. "They do it differently. So, Larry is more a pounder, breaks tackles. Tyler can make you miss. But I appreciate the fact that they both make the change moves, they get first downs and touchdowns."
And Missouri has more in mind for Badie. According to Luper, in addition to his output from the backfield, he'll be returning kicks and will see a sizable increase in targets.
"You're gonna see a lot of Tyler Badie all over the football field," Luper said.
Change in RB, consistency in QB could lead to more opportunities for wide receivers
Mookie Cooper made the blockbuster move in the offseason, offensive lineman Case Cook sang Tauskie Dove's praises at SEC Media Days and Keke Chism returns as MU's top receiver from 2020. Add players like freshman Dominic Lovett, D'ionte "Boo" Smith, JJ Hester and Barrett Banister to the mix, and the Tigers have more depth than at this point last season.
But will that translate to better output?
"In this league, as you guys know, there's not gonna be a ton of situations where guys are running wide open," Hamdan said. "With the opportunities they get, high point the football, make tough contested catches. That's certainly going to be the focus."
Hamdan has an entirely different fall camp ahead of him in 2021. Missouri has its quarterback in Connor Bazelak, and a large portion of the receivers have shared game time with him. Those who haven't, unlike last year, had a full spring camp, summer and have a fall camp to work with him.
"Any time you can have the same guy playing (quarterback), I think from a leadership standpoint, one: He understands what he's got to get done with the team," Hamdan said. "And certainly, No. 2: All summer, and with the receivers, that unison with both those groups is always critical, so we're excited about that."
Woods is happy with "versatile" tight ends
"I think Daniel (Parker Jr.) is the best blocking tight end in the Southeastern Conference," Woods said. "I think he's incredible."
High praise, indeed. And he's happy with his other options, too.
Logan Christopherson chose medical retirement and will not return, but Missouri will bring back Niko Hea. He missed all of spring camp with injury, but was MU's top pass-catching tight end in 2020.
Parker Jr. and Hea are the prominent returners in the group and will more than likely see the majority of snaps. And the more he watches them, the more Woods is happy with his "two big-time guys."
"I think the tight end is the most versatile position we have on our offense," Woods said. "It's the hardest position to play, just from a wide range of things that you've gotta carry, and I think just having a chance to watch those guys develop, I think there are gonna be some great opportunities to make plays."
Consistency the goal for experienced offensive line
And now for the guardians of the line, who have played as prominent a part in Missouri's preseason as any position on the field — if not more.
There's more consistency in this group than perhaps any other area on the field for MU, with Larry Borom the only starter not to return.
"I think the beauty of this year, for me, is that we've got a few more guys that have been in the fire, that have been in the fight, that bring a little bit more experience than in the previous year," Johnson said.
But it was an offensive line that had a good start to the 2020 season, but "lost some juice toward the end of the season," according to Johnson.
So in 2021, his second trip around the block, he's looking to change one thing.
"I would just say consistency," Johnson said. "Consistency in our approach regardless of opponent. To me, we should treat everybody the same regardless if you're Ohio State or if you're Middle Tennessee, it doesn't matter. My approach should be the same week after week."